One centimeter long bacterium discovered

223 points15
baltimore15 hours ago

Here is what I want to see when I click that link: a picture. Of a bacterium. Next to a ruler. Thank you.

UPDATE: My bad, there are plenty of pictures in the supplemental materials downloadable further down the page

O__________O10 hours ago

Here’s a GIF of the NYT video:

Image description: Filaments of a bacteria named Thiomargarita magnifica, placed next to a dime for scale. It is the largest bacteria ever observed, and each filament seen here is a single cell.

shagie11 hours ago

Unlocked link for any who hit a paywall -

euroderf3 hours ago

Would it kill them to put a 0.10€ coin in the picture too ?

turing_complete2 hours ago

And a banana, please.

dzhiurgis1 hour ago

And a football field and a boeing 747

ravenstine12 hours ago


samatman12 hours ago

It clearly states that each filament is one cell: a bacterium, not bacteria.

heavyset_go11 hours ago

Here's a preprint from biorxiv, not sure if it's the same study, but there are plenty of pictures:

tonnydourado2 hours ago

I am curious, but really not sure whether I wanna actually click on any of the links in this thread.

mensetmanusman13 hours ago

Build the software to make this possible:

The trouble is that when writers are discussing scientific research, they could be sued if they use the images in the article without permission.

There needs to be an easy way to revenue share with publishers when these copyrighted images are used. It would definitely be a win-win scenario.

Mirioron12 hours ago

I see this being downvoted, but images are copyrighted. Using an image for illustrative purposes is not fair use, is it? Therefore the articles can't just share the same images.

anigbrowl5 hours ago

Of course it's fair use, it meets the educational criterion.

Might you have to defend it? Maybe. Would you win? Assuredly.

thaumasiotes11 hours ago

> Using an image for illustrative purposes is not fair use, is it?

Often it is; the paradigm would be commentary. If you're going to talk about the image, to some extent it's necessary to let people see what you're talking about. Reproducing the Mohammed cartoons ( ) in a discussion of them would obviously be fair use.

As with most aspects of the legal system, there is no standard for what is or isn't fair use.

taneq12 hours ago

Is this not precisely what fair use is about?

lxe13 hours ago

Still annoying... have to download them and such.

threads212 hours ago

Did they leave in MS Word tracked changes at the end of that supplemental materials pdf? Lots of weird highlighting.

AnimalMuppet14 hours ago

Hmm. I could swear that, when I first clicked on it, there was a picture of several of them, next to a dime. (Also, left-right reversed - you could tell by the writing on the dime.)

joshuahaglund11 hours ago

In San Pedro CA there's a beach called White Point Park, named for the mats of white sulfur oxidizing bacteria that grow in geothermal spring water. A Japanese family ran a bath house with the water from a geothermal spring but an earthquake damaged the flow and then being sent to internment camps ended it. I was gazing in the tide pools there when I got a whiff of sulfur, like at a hot spring, and followed my nose to a tide pool full of white fuzzy sulfur oxidizing bacteria (I think).

My pic:



thirtyfivecent7 hours ago

The imprisonment and terrorization of thousands of innocent civilians just because of their skin color and race... please dont go along with the attempt at calling these things just "internment camps"

dragonwriter4 hours ago

> The imprisonment and terrorization of thousands of innocent civilians just because of their skin color and race... please dont go along with the attempt at calling these things just "internment camps"

What do you think internment camps usually are? “Concentration camp” would be accurate, though it's problematic because the use of that as a euphemism for the Nazi extermination camps tends to get people to view it as misuse when it is used in its original and literal sense.

fshbbdssbbgdd7 hours ago

This is the only case I ever hear anyone use the word “internment” so to me “internment camp” is just a synonym for “the place America put Japanese people.”

And “concentration camp” similarly means “the place the Germans put Jewish people (and other groups).”

I don’t think one word is inherently more intense than the other. The difference in how I think about the two is mainly down to what happened in the camps. Both were evil places where the government imprisoned innocent people. Only the Nazis were killing everyone.

saiya-jin4 hours ago

Since we are cherry-picking terms, what most people imagine when the term 'nazi concentration camp' is mentioned is actually extermination/death camp. Organized mass murders predominantly via gas chambers or shooting. Wikipedia mentions 6 of those - Chełmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz.

Concentration camps per se were just as name suggest - place to concentrate large group of undesirables, either for further sending ie to death camps, or organized hard labor of anything reich required. That horrible things happened en masse and conditions for survival were slim also here was just down to humans (at least in appearance) who ran it.

burrows16 minutes ago

But is there any proof that such camps are evil? Or are you just a perl clutcher?

ivan_gammel5 hours ago

Concentration camps were used by Britain before Nazi.

JetAlone4 hours ago

It was over a hundred thousand, about 0.1% of the US population at the time.

cto_of_antifa7 hours ago
Jiro9 hours ago


This is one of those cases where the genetic material is repeated multiple times inside the same "organism". It would be considered to be a filament made up of multiple cells, except that there isn't anything separating the individual cells, so it's technically "one cell".

It's like roping together 200 boats and claiming that you've created a mile long boat. You sort of did, but it's not really the first thing people think of when they see that phrase.

grapeskin2 hours ago

But rope together 200 cars on a track and people will readily accept that it’s a mile long train.

polycaster1 hour ago

True, but I guess for most people "a mile long train" sounds way less interesting than "a mile long car".

undersuit4 hours ago

It's a multiprocessor. The multiple available genes allow more expressiveness. Three genomes reacting to environmental changes exposes its resources 3 times as fast.

Or maybe the chromosomes are spatially optimal in a centimeter long rod.

Or maybe it's evolved to suppress the genes/proteins that would be excessive if it had 3 working copies being transcripted repeatedly.

Rerarom9 hours ago

> boat comparison

This made my day, thanks.

bendbro5 hours ago

Yeah, that Candidatus Thiomargarita magnifica is a real piece of shit.

atmb4u14 hours ago

went down the rabbit hole and found this: Largest single cell organism (1.6 inches)

sigmoid1013 hours ago

>The entire cell contains several cytoplasmic domains with each domain having a nucleus and a few chloroplasts.

This somehow feels like a multicellular organism that didn't quite make the jump that other eukaryotes did.

Byamarro12 hours ago

These are even bigger (20cm/8in):

41b696ef11138 hours ago

If you want to go with the biggest cell, an ostrich egg is some 15cm diameter and 1-2 kgs.

FreeFull3 hours ago

AFAIK, the egg isn't a single cell. The actual embryo connected to the yolk inside is significantly smaller

hashmymustache8 hours ago

Every saltwater tank owner knows the frustration of bubble algae.

Symmetry12 hours ago

I guess being long and thin they don't violate the square/cube laws that normally keep bacteria from getting too big given that they have to use their outer walls rather than mitochondria to respirate. Still very impressive.

efavdb12 hours ago

I happened to write a paper on just this issue (shameless plug)! You're right: With a sphere, the metabolic consumption grows like R^3 but nutrient capture goes like the surface area, which scales like R^2. The result is a max radius R where nutrient in can support the consumption. However, for long thin object, both the volume and area grow like L, the length. The result is that -- rather than plateauing to a finite limit -- a long thin bacterium can actually maintain exponential growth indefinitely! and that is what is actually seen in the lab.

JoeAltmaier12 hours ago

Some larger bacteria use a water sac inside to push all the living components close to the surface. So osmosis can feed them oxygen. I wonder if this one does that?

heavyset_go11 hours ago

This study says that the organelles are bound to the cell membrane:

Metacelsus15 hours ago

Interesting. It seems like only much larger.

(Previous coverage discussing the preprint: )

jasonhansel13 hours ago

Not the only unicellular organism visible to the naked eye. For example:

deanmen11 hours ago

An egg is a single cell.

progman3213 hours ago

Aside: Searching for "Valonia ventricosa" in YouTube gives me absolutely atrocious results. A bunch of clickbait medical things and random gross-out stuff. Bleh. Anyone else?

cmrdporcupine10 hours ago

That's a eukaryote though, whole different kettle of fish. This is bacteria, far simpler and smaller.

pvaldes14 hours ago

Hum... I'm unsure and my sea spider sense is tingling. My first impression would be an egg sack like those from Opisthobranchia that could explain the DNA in pouches, or maybe a small bryozoa. If is covered in bacteria it could explain the genetic analysis.

Another possibility would be some kind of crystals growing from sulfur and covered in bacteria.

We need and electronic microscope image here and hystological cuts stained with gram.

stubish12 hours ago

"That turned out not to be the case. When the researchers peered inside the bacterial noodles with electron microscopes, they realized each one was its own gigantic cell. The average cell measured about 9,000 microns long, and the biggest was 20,000 microns — long enough to span the diameter of a penny."

(from NYT, )

chrisbrandow14 hours ago

Amazing that cell walls are strong enough to maintain integrity at that size!

pvaldes2 hours ago

More even if the think that the structure is inside a fluid and subject to strong forces of pressure, currents and tides and bombed with sand each day. And we have a thin 1cm long cell that still somehow navigates it and don't break. It just does not feel right physically.

6equj514 hours ago
Teknoman11713 hours ago

The cytoplasm of those are very interesting. It has multiple partitions, and the cytoplasm is very viscous. They don't "pop" if there is damage or leak all their contents into the water. They can repair some amount of damage.

nonsapreiche14 hours ago

not to mention the cell that is a chicken egg

samatman12 hours ago

It is the yolk of an egg which is the single cell / ovum in birds.

And yes, if there's a larger cell than an ostrich yolk I'm not aware what it is.

sedatk13 hours ago

Biologically, an eggshell isn't a cell wall.

stjohnswarts14 hours ago

ostrich egg?

randoglando13 hours ago

Ostrich yolk technically

beefman13 hours ago

Human neurons can be a meter long.

Symmetry12 hours ago

Those have got glial cells to help support the parts far from the nucleus. Plus they're in a cooperative multicellar environment, not off by their lonesome.

im3w1l14 hours ago

Really neat bacterium. Sounds like it's on the verge of becoming an eukaryote.

sydthrowaway12 hours ago

Very bad news

mah4k4l11 hours ago

A perfect hangover lizard story, 10/10