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Strangers invade the homes of giant bacteria

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Posted August 8, 2013
This photo shows a sample of giant bacteria Thioploca retrieved from the researchers research cruise in the Pacific. Credit: Loreto de Brabrandere

This photo shows a sample of giant bacteria Thioploca retrieved from the researchers research cruise in the Pacific. Credit: Loreto de Brabrandere

Life is not a walk in the park for the world’s largest bacteria, that live as soft, noodle-like, white strings on the bottom of the ocean depths. Without being able to fend for themselves, they get invaded by parasitic microorganisms that steal the nutrition, that they have painstakingly retreived. This newly discovered bizarre deep ocean relationship may ultimately impact ocean productivity, report researchers from University of Southern Denmark now in the scientific journal Nature.

At the bottom of the eastern Pacific off Mexico we find one of the largest bacteria in the world: Thioploca. It is so large that it can be seen with the naked eye, and it lives together with other family members in bundles of long fluffy white cell strands that look like Chinese noodles. Thioploca feeds on nitrate, which it absorbs from the water, and when it has gathered a portion of nitrate, it retires to a dwelling site under the seabed. The bacteria withdraws through an up to 20 cm long sheath to its dwelling site, and when it is again ready to feed, it returns through the tube to the ocean water.

“We have long thought that a surprisingly large amount of nitrate disappears here. When we investigated the case, we saw that Thioploca is not solely responsible for all nitrate removal. Inside the tubes we found some smaller cells, so-called anammox bacteria that steal nitrate from Thioploca when it retires through the sheath with its harvest of nitrate”, explains Bo Thamdrup, bio-geo-chemist at the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution (NordCEE), University of Southern Denmark.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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