First Detailed Image of the World’s Smallest Known Life Form Revealed

/ 4 years ago


Have you ever wondered just how small a life form can get? Well, you are about to get the answer to that question. Scientists appear to have captured the first detailed microscopy images of an ultra-small bacteria.

The group of scientists who photographed the images are from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. They believe that this is “about as small as life can get”. However, existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades.

The cells are said to have a volume of 0.009 cubic microns, meaning that around 150,000 of these bacteria fit on a tip of hair. The scientists have also found that The bacterial cells have densely packed spirals that are probably DNA, a very small number of ribosomes, hair-like appendages, and a stripped-down metabolism that likely requires them to rely on other bacteria for many of life’s necessities.


“These newly described ultra-small bacteria are an example of a subset of the microbial life on earth that we know almost nothing about,” says Jill Banfield, a Senior Faculty Scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor in the departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “They’re enigmatic. These bacteria are detected in many environments and they probably play important roles in microbial communities and ecosystems. But we don’t yet fully understand what these ultra-small bacteria do,” he added.

The scientists procured samples of the bacteria by using a new portable cryo plunger, which froze groundwater to absolute zero (which is -457.6°F or -272°C) in order to keep the cells intact during transportation.

Though there are a lot of unanswered questions to these newly discovered minuscule life-form, they would most probably fill a lot of gaps in biology.

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