The caribbean mangrove swamp is home to the largest bacterium in the world

Thursday, June 23, 2022
author picture Louis Robert
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A New Bacteria Found in a Mangrove Swamp

Marine biologists have found a new species of bacteria in a mangrove swamp in the Caribbean. The organism‚ called Ca. Thiomargarita magnifica‚ performs chemosynthesis‚ a process analogous to photosynthesis in plants. The bacteria has a new organelle called pepins‚ which could play an important role in the evolvability of their extreme size. Further research is needed to determine how these organisms interact with other microorganisms in their habitat.

WASHINGTON (AP)‚ Scientists discovered the largest bacterium on earth in a Caribbean mangrove swamp. While most bacteria is microscopic in nature‚ this particular one can still be seen by the naked eye. Jean-Marie Volland is a Marine Biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was also co-author on a paper that announced the discovery in Thursday's journal. Olivier Gros was a coauthor of the article and a biologist at the University of the French West Indies. He discovered the first instance of the bacterium‚ Thiomargarita magnifica (or magnificent sulfur pearl)‚ clinging on to mangrove leaves. This discovery occurred in the Guadeloupe archipelago in 2009. He didn't know that it was a bacteria because of the large size of this organism -- these bacteria average a third inch (9.9 centimeters) in length. The organism was only a single bacterial cells‚ confirming genetic analyses. Petra Levin from Washington University‚ St Louis said that it was an incredible discovery. This raises the question about how many giant bacteria there are. It also reminds us to never underestimate bacteria. Gros found bacteria attached to oyster shells and rocks‚ as well as glass bottles within the swamp. Although scientists haven't been able yet to cultivate it in laboratory culture‚ researchers claim that the structure is unusual for bacteria. The cell has one key distinction: it is equipped with a central compartment (or vacuole) that permits certain cell functions to take place in this controlled environment. Manuel Campos (a French biologist who wasn't involved in this study) said that the acquisition of this central vacuole helps cells to overcome physical limits... regarding how large a cell may be. Researchers said that they don't know why the bacterium was so big‚ however Volland (co-author) suggested it could be an adaptation to avoid it being eaten by small organisms. ___ Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education provides support to the Associated Press Health Science Department. All content is the sole responsibility of the Associated Press.