An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Scientists have discovered a bacteria with cells that measure a full centimeter in length, an astonishing size that makes it by far the largest bacterial species ever found and even "challenges our concept of a bacterial cell," reports a new study. Bacteria are an extraordinarily diverse group of organisms that have inhabited Earth for billions of years and have evolved to occupy a dizzying variety of niches. Still, almost all of these microbes are composed of simple cells that measure about two microns in diameter, which is about 40 times smaller than a strand of human hair. Thiomargarita magnifica, a bacteria discovered on sunken red mangrove leaves in Guadeloupe, Lesser Antilles, has blown this standard scale out of the water. The species has evolved filamentary cells that are "larger than all other known giant bacteria by ~50-fold," making them "visible to the naked eye," according to a study published on Thursday in Science. Scientists led by Jean-Marie Volland, a marine biologist who holds joint appointments at the Laboratory for Research in Complex Systems and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a U.S. Department of Energy office at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, suspect that this record-breaking adaptation is partly due to the astonishing number of duplicated genes wielded by T. magnifica, an ability that is known as polyploidy. [...] The results revealed that these bacteria contain DNA clusters in their cells, which are located in compartments bordered by membranes that the team called "pepins." These organized pepins provide a stark contrast to the free-floating DNA seen in the cells of most bacteria. In addition, the team's genetic sequencing revealed that T. magnifica contains hundreds of thousands of genome copies that are dispersed across the cell, adding up to about three times the number of genes in most bacteria, which is an extreme example of polyploidy. "These cellular features likely allow the organism to grow to an unusually large size and circumvent some of the biophysical and bioenergetic limitations on growth," Volland and his colleagues said.
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