The largest bacterium ever seen

It appeared in a Caribbean mangrove swamp It is the largest bacterium ever seen How did it grow so big? It is Thiomargarita magnifica5,000 times larger than most bacteria. Its name refers to the Latin word for ‘large’ and to the French word magnifique.

“To put it in context, it would be like one human meeting another as high as Mount Everest.” So said the study’s lead author, marine biologist Jean-Marie Volland. The T. magnifica measures one centimeter in length. It was discovered in the lush islands of Guadeloupe in 2009.

The largest bacterium ever seen appeared in the Caribbean.
Largest bacteria ever seen appeared in the Caribbean.

Strange noodles

The biologist found something strange. Thin, noodle-like threads, visible to the naked eye. They floated on leaves and soil. Years later, several researchers analyzed the strange prokaryotes under microscopes. It was confirmed that it was in fact a gigantic single-celled bacterium.

On June 23 the team published their results in Science Revealed the reasons why this bacterium reaches that colossal size.

The largest multicellular organisms, eukaryotes, usually have membrane-enclosed organelles in their cells. Bacteria belong to the prokaryote group. They are considered “enzyme pockets without compartments”. They have no internal membranes separating the genetic material.

T magnifica bucks this trend. It has internal membranes for storing DNA and ribosomes. The researchers decided to call these tiny bacterial organelles “cucumbers.”

“It secretes its genetic material into membrane-bound organelles. It challenges our concept of the bacterial cell,” the study authors write.

Its size challenges everything known about bacteria.
Their size defies everything known about bacteria.


Like T. magnifica has more internal membranes to play with, it can distribute protein machines. These make the cells’ energy source, ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Other bacteria have no internal membranes. They have only one place to put the ATP-generating machines. This is the cell envelope that encapsulates the entire organism.

But it is difficult to transport this energy very far. This restriction limits the size of most bacterial cells. But the largest bacterium ever seen exceeds all expectations.

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