Generations after generations of experimentation and discovery have led us to where we are today. Whatever scientists know in the present time has a long chain of research in the past. Yet, now and then, a finding shakes the foundation of everything we know.
We can see this from a bacterium that scientists have discovered that is bigger than any other bacteria ever discovered and visible to the naked eye, Vice reports.
Going by the name, ‘Thiomargarita Magnifica,’ this bacteria measures one centimeter in length and was discovered on the sunken red mangrove leaves in Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles. The discovery of the bacteria is so unusual, that a study claims that it challenges our concept of a ‘bacterial cell.’
The species has developed filamentary cells, which are bigger than all known bacteria by ’50 folds,’ making it visible to the naked eye. According to marine biologist Jean-Marie Volland, this phenomenon is due to duplicated genes exercised by the bacteria, an ability called ‘polyploidy.’
In the study, Volland and his team of expert scientists claimed that the cells grow orders of magnitude over the ‘limits’ for the bacterial cell. This leads them to show unparalleled polyploidy of more than 500,000 of a large genome.
Volland and his colleagues used electron microscopy, x-ray, and fluorescence to learn about the processes inside these giant cells. Results showed that the bacteria have DNA clusters in cells, present in sections bordered by membranes called ‘pepins.’ The team also revealed that T.magnifica contains hundreds of thousands of genome copies dispersed across the cell.
History of the T.magnifica
Scientists came across the T.magnifica around a decade ago in the mangrove forests in Guadeloupe, but they haven’t been able to characterize it for years. While it belongs to the family of prokaryotes, which includes archaea and bacteria, it resembles eukaryotes in size and structure.
Bacteria and archaea are the most diverse organisms on Earth in terms of classifications and metabolically. However, a small fraction of them are present in culture; hence little is known about their biology.
Model bacteria are tiny in size, and some large cells are evident in four phyla. The discovery of T.magnifica raises the question of another family of unknown micro bacteria.
‘’The discovery of it suggests that large and more complex bacteria may be hiding in plain sight,’’ said Volland.
Although identifying Thiomargarita Magnifica is a significant milestone, it also hints at an undiscovered world of giant microbes that may reshape our understanding of life at these scales.