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Bigger than some insects: Giant bacteria discovered in Guadeloupe

Bigger than some insects: Giant bacteria discovered in Guadeloupe

aOnly prestige is made Thiomargarita magnifica Something very special: the organism is one centimeter long and can be seen with the naked eye. This certainly sounds fascinating because the life form that researchers working with French biologist Jean-Marie Voland of UC Berkeley have discovered in the mangrove swamps of Guadeloupe is a single-celled organism. Which is cool, but not entirely out of the ordinary either. There are many marine protozoa that are nothing more than microbes in the sense of microscopic life, such as bladder algae Vallonia ventricosaalso called the “sea eyeball” in English, the cells of which can reach diameters of up to four centimeters.

Ulf von Rauchaupt

Editor in the “Science” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday.

but Thiomargarita magnifica It is not an alga or any higher organism in a biological cellular sense, but a bacteria. The largest type of bacteria known so far is the sulfur bacteria Thiomargarita namipensis, with an average length of 180 μm, isolated samples reach 750 μm or 0.75 mm, which then need at least a magnifying glass as a person with normal vision. As the name implies, it is T. Magnifica Linked to this now-deceased record holder, but it grows to be 50 times its size and therefore larger than some animals, nematodes or fruit flies for example. On the other hand, the vast majority of bacteria reach no more than a few micrometres. these constellations T. Magnifica five thousand times. “It’s like meeting a human the size of Mount Everest,” says Jean-Marie Volland.

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nitrate spirit

discovered T. Magnifica As an unusual accumulation of long white threads on the surface of rotting leaves in a mangrove swamp on the Caribbean island of France. Like Voland and co-authors Report now in science, the macroscopic microbe survives by “breathing” nitrates and oxidizing sulfur in the process. The name Thiomargarita literally means “sulfur pearl” and comes from the sulfur granules that members of this genus carry in their cytoplasm.

Three-dimensional view of segmented cells of Thiomargarita magnifica from solid X-ray tomography.  Cells of different lengths are likely samples from different stages of development.


Three-dimensional view of segmented cells of Thiomargarita magnifica from solid X-ray tomography. Cells of different lengths are likely samples from different stages of development.
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Photo: flag


Giant bacilli store nitrates in a giant sac, or vacuole, which occupies most of their cell, leaving only 2 to 3 microns of space under the cell membrane for sulfur granules and other organelles. this is how it solves T. Magnifica The problem of all giant protozoa: how to transport molecules responsible for metabolism quickly enough through the enormous dimensions of the cell, when mere diffusion allows biomolecules to move at typical speeds of one millimeter per hour.