News of the WeekMicrobiology

Giant Sulfur-Eating Microbe Found

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Science  16 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5413, pp. 415
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5413.415

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In the sediment below the waters off Namibia, scientists have found a giant new species of bacterium, the world's largest, that grows as a string of pearly white globules. As reported on page 493, cells of Thiomargarita namibiensis, the "Sulfur pearl of Namibia," reach three-quarters of a millimeter in diameter--100 times larger than that of the average bacterium. This oddball microbe consumes both sulfide and nitrate; researchers note that such bacteria might one day help clean up coastal waters that have been polluted by excess nitrates from agricultural runoff.