In pictures, the world's largest bacteria, the size of an eyelash, was discovered in Guadeloupe

“Thiomargarita magnifica” measures up to two centimeters, looks like an “eyelash” and rocks microbiology codes, describes Olivier Gross, a professor of biology at the University of the West Indies, co-author of the study. This white thread is exceptional. When the average size of the bacteria is 2 to 5 micrometers, they “can be seen with the naked eye,” he admires.

single cell

A researcher first noticed the microbe in Guadeloupe in 2009. “At first I thought it was nothing but a bacterium because something two years old couldn’t be one.” Electron microscopy cytometric techniques quickly showed it to be a bacterial organism.

Bacteria were discovered with the naked eye in Guadeloupe Mangrove.

Pierre-Yves Pascal/AFP

A biologist from the same laboratory reveals that it belongs to the family Thiomargarita, an already known bacterial genus that uses sulfides for its development. Olivier Gros explains that the work done at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris indicates that we are dealing with “one cell, same cell”.

As tall as Mount Everest

To convince the scientific world of the existence of such an organism, more evidence is needed. It appealed to the scientists Jean-Marie Voland (current author of the study), a teacher and researcher at the University of Berkeley. He said to himself, “It would be like meeting a human all the way up Mount Everest.”

In proportion, it is as if a human is the size of Mount Everest.
In proportion, it is as if a human is the size of Mount Everest.

Jean-Marie Voland / Agence France-Presse

The challenge was mainly technical: to succeed in presenting an image of the bacteria as a whole, thanks to “3D microscopic analyses, at higher magnification”. In the American laboratory, the researcher possessed advanced technologies. His 3D images finally make it possible to prove that the entire thread is indeed a single cell.

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3D visualizations prove the uniqueness of this organism.
3D visualizations prove the uniqueness of this organism.

Oliver Gross / AFP


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