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The Three Faces of Thiomargarita

Merry Youle of Small Things Considered has authored a post that looks at Thiomargarita spp.

"Non-motile Thiomargarita was first discovered in 1999 off the Namibian coast, thus was named T. namibiensis. Its cells are large spheres, arranged in chains, each chain enclosed in a mucous sheath. Average cell diameter is 180 μm, with rare individuals reaching 750 μm, which is about as big as bacterial cells get. But they do this by cheating. Most of the ‘cell’ is a large vacuole, with the cytoplasm relegated to a thin surrounding outer layer. Sulfur globules are evident in the cytoplasm. Thus the genus name, Thiomargarita, that was derived from the Greek for ‘sulfur pearl.’ Thiomargarita spp. are widespread in hydrogen sulfide-rich coastal sediments. They, too, use nitrate as their terminal electron acceptor. Their strategy is to take advantage of the occasional events that resuspend the sediment and bring abundant nitrates into the water column. They then hoard nitrate in their huge vacuoles—enough nitrate to see them through even months of scarcity."

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