Allow me to parade my ignorance and ask a question to the marine biologists and microbiologists on Google+.

There have been some stories in the press over the weekend about a voyage to a deep sea trench, where biologists have found 4-inch-wide amoebae. I will be the first to declare this to be a very cool discovery. But the press release and the articles alike have referred to them as "the largest individual cells in existence."

What about ostrich eggs? What about acellular slime molds that can stretch yards across? Is this just overenthusiastic spin, or does it hinge on some fine legalistic definition of "cell"?

(I can't track down a journal paper describing the results. I've contacted Scripps to see if there is one, and to get an answer to my question. No response yet, but, hey, it's Sunday morning as of this writing.)

Update 10/24/11: I heard back from the Scripps press office, which relayed this short message from one of the scientists on the project, Lisa Levin:

"I don't have an opportunity to research cell size on the planet. Given that the other two examples are terrestrial (I think), perhaps we just leave these as the largest single cell organisms in the ocean?"

Seems right to me. Any thoughts? The press release (and articles following it) have not been changed.
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