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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Bacteria
Phylum: Proteobacteria
Class: Gammaproteobacteria
Order: Thiotrichales
Family: Thiotrichaceae[1]
Genus: Thioploca
Lauterborn, 1907[2]

Thioploca is a genus of filamentous sulfur bacteria which occurs along 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) of coast off the west of South America. A large vacuole occupies more than 80% of their cell volume and contains sulfide and nitrate which they use to make energy for their metabolism by oxidising sulfide with nitrate. The concentration of nitrate in the vacuole is extremely high (500 mM) even though the sediments in which they live are relatively very low in nitrogen (25 μM).[3] Because they utilise both sulfur and nitrogen compounds they may provide an important link between the nitrogen and sulfur cycles. They secrete a sheath of mucus which they use as a tunnel to travel between the sulfide containing sediment and the nitrate containing sea water.[4]


Thioploca contains four species:[5]


  1. ^ eol
  2. ^ Jørgensen, B. B.; Gallardo, V. A. (1999). "Thioploca spp.: Filamentous sulfur bacteria with nitrate vacuoles". FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 28 (4): 301. doi:10.1111/j.1574-6941.1999.tb00585.x. 
  3. ^ H. Fossing, V. A. Gallardo, B. B. Jørgensen, M. Hüttel, L. P. Nielsen, H. Schulz, D. E. Canfield, S. Forster, R. N. Glud, J. K. Gundersen, J. Küver, N. B. Ramsing, A. Teske, B. Thamdrup & O. Ulloa (2002). "Concentration and transport of nitrate by the mat-forming sulphur bacterium Thioploca". Nature. 374 (6524): 713–715. doi:10.1038/374713a0. 
  4. ^ Gabe Paal (April 16, 1999). "Biggest bacteria ever found". EurekAlert!. 
  5. ^ A. Teske, N. B. Ramsing, J. Küver & H. Fossing (1996). "Phylogeny of Thioploca and related filamentous sulfide-oxidizing bacteria". Systematic and Applied Microbiology. 18 (4): 517–526.