When you come across a single-celled bacterium that is visible to the naked eye, you know something very unusual is going on. That’s what biologist Jean Marie Volland experienced when he stumble over something this type of bacteria that can grow up to 20 mm! (The image above is an artist’s rendering, mangrove photo by Pierre Yves Pascal; illustration by Susan Brand/Berkeley Lab)
It turns out that these Guadeloupe bacteria were previously discovered by another researcher. Guadeloupe is a French territory not far from Puerto Rico. It’s not surprising that such megabacteria would come from a tropical area, as I would imagine that’s where they thrive.
Finding such large single-celled organisms seems inconceivable, but there is an explanation. This bacterium feeds on sulfur and is oversized as the mangroves where it was found produce large amounts of this substance. Your family is called Thiomargarita Magnifica. In addition, there is no natural enemy for bacteria of this size.
Scientists think there may be even bigger bacteria out there. The good news is that this is a scientific curiosity but poses no danger to humans. It’s just one of nature’s curious exceptions, a bacterium that can be caught with tweezers. When swimming around mangroves, keep your eyes peeled, you might spot one.
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