A sampling site of mangroves in Guadeloupe, the French archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. Here, an unusually large bacterium, Thiomargarita Magnifica, was discovered. (Reuters)

Washington: Scientists have discovered the world’s largest bacterium in the Caribbean mangrove swamps.

Most bacteria are microscopic, but they are large enough to be seen with the naked eye.

Jean-Marie Vorland, a marine biologist at Lawrence Berkeley’s National Laboratory and co-author of the paper that published the discovery, said that thin white filaments that are about the same size as human eyelashes are “known so far. It is by far the largest bacterium among them. ” Journal Science Thursday.

Olivier Gross, co-author and biologist at the French West Indies and the University of Giana, discovered the first example of this bacterium clinging to the sunken mangrove leaves of the Guadeloupe Islands. 2009.

But he didn’t immediately know it was a bacterium. Its size was surprisingly large, and it was just over a third inch (0.9 centimeters) long. Only later did genetic analysis reveal that the organism was a single bacterial cell.

“This is a surprising discovery,” said Petra Levin, a microbiologist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the study.

“It raises the question of how many of these giant bacteria are, and reminds us that bacteria should never be underestimated.”

Gross also found bacteria on swamp oyster shells, rocks, and glass bottles.

Scientists have not yet been able to grow it in laboratory cultures, but researchers say the cells have a structure that is unusual for bacteria. One important difference: it has a large central compartment, or vacuole, which allows some cellular functions to occur in its controlled environment rather than the entire cell.

“The acquisition of this large central vacuole will definitely help the cells avoid physical restrictions … about cell size,” said a biologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research, who was not involved in the study. , Manuel Campos said.

Researchers said they didn’t know why the bacteria were so big, but co-author Volant hypothesized that they might be an adaptation to prevent them from being eaten by small organisms.

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