To the surprise of the science world, a new bacterium has been discovered that is bigger than a fruit fly! The humongous organism is the largest bacterium ever recorded, coming in at 0.78 inches (2 centimeters) long. Resembling a long skinny string, the team appropriately named the creature Thiomargarita magnifica, which translates literally to “giant bacteria.” Unlike most bacteria, the Thimargarita magnifica can be seen with the naked eye.
“All too often, bacteria are thought of as small, simple, ‘unevolved’ life-forms — so-called ‘bags of proteins,'” said microbiologist Chris Greening to Science. “But this bacterium shows this couldn’t be much further from the truth.”
Unlike most bacteria, whose genetic material floats around freely inside their cells, this newly discovered organism carries its DNA inside a membrane. This characteristic sets the T. magnifica into a new category of single-celled organisms: somewhere in between a prokaryote and a eukaryote.
Interestingly, the stringy bacterium also carries a water pouch that occupies more than 70 percent of its volume. The paper, published in bioRxiv, discusses how this feature means its contents are advantageously pushed to the outer layer, allowing easy diffusion of molecules into the cell and toxins out.
Scientists are excited at what this special organism may uncover. Kazuhiro Takemoto, a computational biologist added that this giant bacterium “could be a missing link in the evolution of complex cells.”
Source study: bioRxiv – A centimeter-long bacterium with DNA compartmentalized in membrane-bound organelles