Nov 3, 2022
Microbiology textbooks teach that bacteria are so small that
they cannot be seen without a microscope, and that they do not
contain organelles or a nucleus. Then along comes Thiomargarita
magnifica and smashes this dogma. T. magnifica is a
giant bacterium that reaches 2 cm in length and can be easily seen
with the naked eye. These bacteria, about the size of an eyelash,
grow in mangrove swamps.
Dr. Jean-Marie Volland is a scientist at the Laboratory for Research in Complex Systems in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. Dr. Volland has characterized the surprising properties of T. magnifica, and he discusses why T. magnifica is found in mangrove swamps, how it overcomes the limitations of nutrient diffusion that keeps most bacteria small, how sulfur oxidation expands the ability of organisms to live in extreme environments, how symbiotic relationships between bacteria and other cells are ubiquitous despite going against survival of the fittest, how studying in Guadeloupe and Austria influenced his interest in symbiosis, and how looking for things in atypical environments leads to novel discoveries.
The microCase for listeners to solve is about Gordo Sheepsay, the temperamental chef of a cooking competition show who eats something more life-threatening than haute cuisine.