Scientists have discovered the world’s largest bacterium, which is almost a centimeter in size. For example, mostly size of the bacteria is about 2 micrometers. The giant, named Thiomargarita magnifica, was found in a mangrove forest in Guadeloupe.

A bacterium the size of a human eyelash can be seen with the naked eye. It was first found in 2009, attached to the sunken leaves of mangrove trees. However, scientists did not immediately realize that it is a bacterium, due to its extraordinary size. On average, Thiomargarita magnifica reaches 0.9 cm. Its largest representatives grew to 2 cm.

Later, genetic analysis revealed that the thin white thread was a single bacterial cell. Research on the new species was published in the journal Science.

“It is an amazing discovery. It opens up the question of how many of these giant bacteria are out there – and reminds us we should never, ever underestimate bacteria,” said microbiologist Petra Levin, who worked on the study.

Bacteria were also found attached to the shells of oysters, stones and glass bottles in the water. Scientists have not yet been able to grow them in the laboratory, but they have already learned that the bacterial cell has an unusual structure. In particular, it has a large central compartment, or vacuole, that allows some functions to be performed in a controlled environment rather than throughout the cell.

“Acquiring a large central vacuole helps it overcome physical limitations on how large a cell can be,” said biologist Manuel Campos, who is also involved in the study.

Scientists have not yet determined why the bacterium became so large. One of the authors of the study suggests that size is an adaptation that helps bacteria not to be eaten by smaller organisms.