Clinging to drenched debris in the shallow, mangrove forests of the French Caribbean, small cordlike creatures — clearly visible to the naked eye — have earned the title of the most significant known germ.
As it measures an inch in length, it is about the size and shape of a human eyebrow, removing the competition 5,000 times the size of a variety of germs in the garden and 50 times the size of the previously considered hundreds of germs. Traditionally, this has been like meeting someone as tall as Mount Everest.
Olivier Gros, a biologist at the University of Antilles, discovered prokaryotes in 2009, which he found floating in the sulfur-rich waters among the mangroves of the Guadeloupe Islands. Germs cling to leaves, branches, oyster shells, and bottles submerged in a hot swamp, Gros told a news conference.
He and his colleagues first thought that it might be a complex eukaryotic organism or perhaps a series of interconnected organisms. But years of genetic and molecular research reveal that each fiber is, in fact, the single cell of the higher bacterium, linked to genes and other sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. “Well, this was amazing,” Jean-Marie Volland, a biologist at the Joint Genome Institute in Berkeley, California, told the forum.
This week, Gros and his colleagues published an article in Science setting out all they learned about new, more significant viruses, which they named Candidatus (Ca.) Thiomargarita magnifica.
Their findings amplify our understanding of bacterial variability in ways that biologists never thought possible. Scientists previously speculated that microbial size would be determined by several factors, including a lack of intracellular transport systems, reliance on inactive chemical distribution, and the localization to the required volume to meet energy needs. However, the capacity of one Ca. T cell. Magnifica is more than two orders larger than the maximum predicted viral load could reach, according to Volland.