A team of international scientists from France and the United States, led by members of the Lawrence National Laboratory (LBNL), discovered the largest bacterium on Earth, which reaches one centimeter in size, in the mangrove forests on the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. The findings of the study are described in an article published in the journal Science.
The previously unknown microbe was given the name Thiomargarita magnifica because it turned out to be a close relative of Thiomargarita namibiensis from Namibia. It was possible to notice the bacterium as a result of microscopy of samples of sea water, which was collected near coastal forests. In the samples, not only tree leaves and various specks were found, but also light translucent threads, whose length was about a centimeter. Further analysis revealed that these are living organisms and they represent the largest bacteria.
Thiomargarita magnifica is capable of obtaining energy from chemical reactions with sulfur compounds, which are found in sea soil and water. The key difference between the described microbes lies not only in the large size, but also in the specific form of the structure: their cytoplasm is divided into many compartments, in which there is a copy of the genome, separated from other cells by a membrane. In addition, the researchers found that bacteria can grow much faster than other microorganisms.