Eerie footage of giant bacteria 5,000 times bigger than average ‘swimming’ in swamp

Researchers have identified a massive strand of bacteria swimming in mangrove swamps in the Caribbean that is the size of an eyelash and you don’t need a microscope to see it

A 3D microscope image of Thiomargarita magnifica
A 3D microscope image of Thiomargarita magnifica

Bacteria so large that it is visible to the human eye has been discovered by scientists.

The strand of bacteria, named Thiomargarita magnifica, is the size of an eyelash and was identified swimming in mangrove swamps in the Caribbean.

Cells of most bacterial species range from between 2 to 750 micrometres (tens of thousands of a centimetre) in length but T.magnifica stretches to more than a centimetre.

To put that comparison into context, it has been described as like a person “encountering another human as tall as Mount Everest”.

A research paper on super-sized bacteria published in the journal Science said T.magnifica’s cells “grow orders of magnitude over theoretical limits for bacterial cell size”.

The French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe where the giant bacteria Thiomargarita magnifica was discovered


Lawrence Berkeley National Labor)

T.magnifica bucks the trend of biological standards for bacteria – single-cell organisms that lack the natural traits large, complex organisms have to support their size – by growing so large.

DNA usually drifts freely in the membrane of the bacteria cell because it does not have a nucleus where the DNA molecules are housed. The New York Times explains how this limits the growth of most DNA cells to a few micrometres.

However, scientists have discovered for the first time in a bacteria that T.magnifica has its own compartments for DNA.

Study leader Jean-Marie Volland said: “We found there are structures within this bacteria which contain the DNA and that is those structures compartmentalise the DNA from the rest of the cytoplasm.

“That is something unique, it has not been observed in bacteria before.”

The marine biologist who first found the large bacteria in the wild told The New York Times that he has not seen it since.

Researchers will attempt to copy and grow the massive bacteria in a lab for further observation.

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