Bacteria can usually only be seen with a microscope. The discovery by a research team now turns this definition on its head. You have discovered a giant bacterium.
Guadeloupe – It was a little threadlike something. A kind of mini worm and visible to the naked eye. French explorer Olivier Gros discovered this creature in the mangroves of the southern Caribbean on Guadeloupe. Then, in the laboratory, the find turned out to be a real sensation. The creature is a giant bacterium. The newly discovered bacterium is up to two centimeters in size. No other bacterium of this size has been found by scientists so far. The find puts many things in the shade and even questions what we know about bacteria.
Researchers discover “bacterial giants”
“Such bacterial giants raise the question of whether there are other macrobacteria that have not yet been identified,” the researchers write in their preprint paper about the bacterium. The scientists have the findings of their analyzes on the Preprint server for biology biorxiv.org. released. The results have yet to be reviewed by independent researchers. It has not yet been published in a specialist magazine.
However, the researchers have already given their bacterium a name: Thiomargarita magnifica or t. magnifica – which translates to “magnificent or magnificent”.
The bacterium from the mangroves is larger than a fly and than all previously known bacteria, according to the research team. In the preprint study, the authors included a graphic that illustrates this. Our planet is teeming with tiny creatures such as bacteria. By definition, the protozoa are invisible to our eyes – between 0.5 and 10 micrometers in size. T. magnifica, on the other hand, can be seen with the naked eye – 9,000 microns.
“The discovery is fantastic and eye-opening,” comments Victor Nizet of the University of California (San Diego) in an article in the journal Science.
giant bacterium t. magnifica questions the well-established systematics of living beings
However, the oversized bacterium has other properties that amaze researchers. In the case of the newly discovered bacterium T.magnifica, the boundary between prokaryotes and eukaryotes appears to be disappearing. Scientists have been categorizing living things according to this system for years.
- eukaryotes: Cells with a real nucleus – this group includes yeast, animals and humans.
- prokaryotes: Cells without a nucleus – such as bacteria and small protozoa (archaea).
Bacteria giant from the mangroves surprises researchers
According to the research team, the newly discovered bacterium achieves its size through two membrane sacs. The genome of the giant bacteria from the mangroves swims in a membrane sac. Unlike other bacteria, it is not free in the cell. The other sack is filled with water. One reason why the bacterium could grow so large.
“The bacterium found could be a missing link in the evolution of complex cells,” explains im Science Kazuhiro Takemoto, computational biologist at Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology.
In addition, the bacterium from the mangrove has a large genome – eleven million bases – so-called DNA building blocks and 11,000 genes. On average, bacteria known to date have four million bases and around 3,900 genes. Many questions about the bacterium are still open. First of all, it is still unclear how long the bacterium has existed and whether it also occurs in other parts of the world. But everything takes time.
Marine biologist Olivier Gros of the University of the French Antilles at Pointe-à-Pitre discovered the strange thin filamentous organism in the mangroves about ten years ago. It was only five years later that he and his colleagues discovered that it was actually a bacterium. Jean-Marie Volland, a doctoral student at Gros, recently discovered how special this giant bacterium is. (ml)
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