Encyclopedia of Geobiology

2011 Edition
| Editors: Joachim Reitner, Volker Thiel


  • Heide N. Schulz-Vogt
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9212-1_205


Colorless, sulfur and nitrate storing bacterium belonging to the gammaproteobacteria, spherical, vacuolated.

Thiomargarita namibiensis , the largest known prokaryote, was first discovered in 1997 off the coast of Namibia and called the Namibian sulfur pearl. Together with the larger species of the genera Beggiatoa and Thioploca , they belong to a group of benthic bacteria that live by the oxidation of sulfide to sulfate with internally stored nitrate. Sulfide is first oxidized to sulfur, which can be stored by the bacteria as an energy reservoir. Nitrate is accumulated to very high concentrations (up to 800 mM) in a central vacuole, which comprises most of the cell volume. The single spherical cells are 100–300 μm in diameter and are held together in a chain by a mucus sheath (Figure 1). A new species of Thiomargarita, which was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, appears as single cells without a slime sheath and can perform reductive divisions in up to three planes. These Thiomargarita...


Cell Volume Open Water Large Species Spherical Cell Sediment Resuspension 
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  1. Schulz, H. N., 2006. The genus Thiomargarita. In Dworkin, M., Falkow, S., Rosenberg, E., Schleifer, K.-H., and Stackebrandt, E. (eds.), The Prokaryotes. A Handbook on the Biology of Bacteria. New York: Springer, Vol. 6, pp. 1156–1163.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heide N. Schulz-Vogt
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Marine MicrobiologyBremenGermany