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Supersized Bacterium

Researchers have uncovered an enormous bacterium living in Caribbean mangrove swamps, NPR reports.

The bacterium, dubbed Thiomargarita magnifica, is a centimeter in length and visible to the naked eye, it adds. Researchers led by the University of California, San Francisco's Shailesh Date have now characterized T. magnifica using a combination of microscopy techniques and genome sequencing. As they report in Science this week, they found that the bacterium grows orders of magnitude larger than was thought to be the limit for bacterial cells and that it too is polyploid with an oversized genome — one that is similar in size to Saccharomyces cerevisiae and contains more genes than Aspergillus nidulans.

"It would be like meeting another human the size of Mount Everest," first author Jean-Marie Volland from the Joint Genome Institute said, according to the New York Times.

The bacterium further appears to have complex interior structures, that the researchers called pepins, that house copies of the bacterial genome as well as ribosomes, the Times notes.

"The impact of the study is enormous. All microbiology textbooks mention that bacteria are small and simple. However, the results described in this paper will completely change our view on these aspects," Gerard Muijzer from the University of Amsterdam tells New Scientist.

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