Scientists discover biggest bacteria ever
The organism can grow to as large as 3/4 of a millimeter across, which means it is visible to the naked eye as a speck
BREMEN, Germany (CNN) -- A team of German scientists studying sediment samples collected off the coast of Namibia say they have discovered the largest bacteria cell ever observed.
The organism can grow to as large as 3/4 of a millimeter across, which means it is visible to the naked eye as a speck -- about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
The new-found bacterium is 100 times larger than the previous record-holder, Epulospiscum fishelsoni, which lives in the guts of the surgeonfish.
To put the size of the big bacterium in perspective, it is a true giant in the world of the very small. For instance, scientists, drawing an analogy, said if the largest of the newly discovered bacteria was the size of a blue whale, the typical bacterium would be the size of a new-born mouse.
As for what it looks like, the large bacteria shines kind of like an opal -- blue, green and white. They grow in long, loosely connected strands, reminiscent of a strand of pearls.
The bacteria is named Thiomargarista namibiensis, which means "Sulfur Pearl of Namibia."
Researchers are particularly interested in it, not just because it is so big, but because it appears to be a storage reservoir for both sulfur and nitrogen.
The research was conducted by Heide Schulz of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and colleagues and is published in this week's edition of the journal Science.
Looking for life in all the weird places
April 1, 1999
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
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