In A Nutshell
Scientists have recently discovered that gonorrhea bacterium is, pound for pound, the strongest living creature on Earth, capable of pulling up to 100,000 times its body weight. Filaments called pili, which grow from the bacteria, can be up to 10 times as long as the bacteria itself and are what the gonorrhea uses to move itself or pull other organisms.
The Whole Bushel
Researchers at Columbia University have recently discovered a new holder for the title of strongest living creature: the gonorrhea bacterium. Able to pull up to 100,000 times its own body weight, it is immensely stronger than any other creature ever recorded. (The Oribatid mite, probably second to gonorrhea, can only lift a little over 1,000 times its body weight, making it nearly 10 times weaker than the bacterium.) A typical heavy horse with this strength would be able to pull 100 million kilograms of weight (but without the aid of sissy things like wheels).
Gonorrhea, like various other bacterium, produces filaments from its “body,” known as pili. These pseudo-appendages are responsible for movement and pushing things out of the way. The scientists wanted to study how gonorrhea uses them to help infect healthy cells and accidentally uncovered their hidden strength. Basically speaking, every once in a while (about 1 percent of the time) the gonorrhea would start to pull something and then it seemed it used other pili to assist, incrementally increasing the strength up to 10 times the original amount with which it was able to work.
The force gonorrhea is able to exert is relatively small, equal to about one-billionth of a Newton, a unit of measure which is the amount of forced needed for a human to accelerate one kilogram of weight by one meter per second squared. The scientists said this process has gone unnoticed for so long because a protein usually added to the bacterium blocks gonorrhea’s ability to use its pili.
Show Me The Proof
PLoS Biology: Cooperative Retraction of Bundled Type IV Pili Enables Nanonewton Force Generation
Sexually transmitted bug is the strongest organism
Study Finds Gonorrhea to Be the Strongest Living Organism in Biological World