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A square bacterium


I have come across a bacterium which has the form of a thin square sheet. In most bacteria such a shape would be precluded by the osmotically-generated internal hydrostatic pressure but this organism, found in a saturated brine pool, has little or no cell turgor pressure. Its shape is probably determined by the pattern in which the cell envelope particles assemble. These square bacteria are so thin and transparent and are so unlike any bacteria previously described that I would have overlooked them if they had not possessed gas vacuoles, and I had not been looking for different forms of gas-vacuolate organisms. The squares derive buoyancy from their gas vacuoles and float at the brine surface.

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Walsby, A. A square bacterium. Nature 283, 69–71 (1980).

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