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Titanospirillum Velox: A Huge, Speedy, Sulfur-Storing Spirillum from Ebro Delta Microbial Mats
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (1999)
  • Lynn Margulis, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Ricardo Guerrero
  • Aaron Haselton
  • Mónica Solé
  • Andrew Wier
A long (20–30 μm), wide (3–5 μm) microbial-mat bacterium from the Ebro Delta (Tarragona, Spain) was grown in mixed culture and videographed live. Intracellular elemental sulfur globules and unique cell termini were observed in scanning-electron-microprobe and transmission-electron micrographs. A polar organelle underlies bundles of greater than 60 flagella at each indented terminus. These Gram-negative bacteria bend, flex, and swim in a spiral fashion; they translate at speeds greater than 10 body lengths per second. The large size of the spirillum permits direct observation of cell motility in single individual bacteria. After desiccation (i.e., absence of standing water for at least 24 h), large populations developed in mat samples remoistened with sea water. Ultrastructural observations reveal abundant large sulfur globules irregularly distributed in the cytoplasm. A multilayered cell wall, pliable and elastic yet rigid, distends around the sulfur globules. Details of the wall, multiflagellated termini, and large cytoplasmic sulfur globules indicate that these fast-moving spirilla are distinctive enough to warrant a genus and species designation: Titanospirillum velox genus nov., sp. nov. The same collection techniques at a similar habitat in the United States (Plum Island, northeast Essex County, Massachusetts) also yielded large populations of the bacterium among purple phototrophic and other inhabitants of sulfurous microbial-mat muds. The months-long survival of T. velox from Spain and from the United States in closed jars filled with mud taken from both localities leads us to infer that this large spirillum has a cosmopolitan distribution.
  • Adrianus Pijper,
  • bacterial motility,
  • polar organelle,
  • sulfur globules
Publication Date
September 28, 1999
Publisher Statement
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.96.20.11584
Citation Information
Lynn Margulis, Ricardo Guerrero, Aaron Haselton, Mónica Solé, et al.. "Titanospirillum Velox: A Huge, Speedy, Sulfur-Storing Spirillum from Ebro Delta Microbial Mats" Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 96 Iss. 20 (1999)
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