Largest Bacteria Ever, Visible With Naked Eyes Discovered By Scientists

New Delhi: Scientists have discovered the largest bacterium in the Caribbean. While most bacteria are microscopic, this unique organism is vermicelli-shaped and is big enough to be seen by the naked eye.

It’s approximately the size of human eyelashes and is nearly a centimetre long. A normal bacterial species measures 1-5 micrometres long. This species averages 10,000 micrometres (four-tenths of an inch/1 cm) long, with some twice that length.

What are bacteria?

They are single-celled organisms that reside nearly everywhere on the planet, vital to its ecosystems and most living things. Bacteria are thought to have been the first organisms to inhabit Earth and remain quite simple in structure billions of years later. The bodies of people are teeming with bacteria, only a relatively small number of which cause disease.

Fact file

  • The organism, named Thiomargarita magnifica, is roughly 50 times larger than all other known giant bacteria and is the first to be visible with the naked eye.
  • The discovery has been detailed in a study published in the journal Science. Researchers have stated that the bacterium has an average cell length greater than 9,000 micrometres.
  • Olivier Gros, a co-author and biologist at the University of the French West Indies and Guiana, found the first example of this bacterium clinging to sunken mangrove leaves in the archipelago of Guadeloupe in 2009. But he didn’t immediately know it was a bacterium because of its surprisingly large size.
  • These bacteria, on average, reach a length of a third of an inch (0.9 centimetres). Only later did genetic analysis reveal the organism to be a single bacterial cell.
  • Gros also found the bacteria attached to oyster shells, rocks, and glass bottles in the swamp.
  • Scientists have not yet been able to grow it in a lab culture, but the researchers say the cell has a structure that’s unusual for bacteria.
  • The key difference is that it has a large central compartment, or vacuole, that allows some cell functions to happen in that controlled environment instead of throughout the cell.


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