It was recently revealed that scientists have discovered and photographed the smallest life-form on Earth, a bacterium. The bacterium is so tiny that the researchers are wondering how long it has been on our planet.
The smallest life-form on Earth has a volume of 0.009 cubic microns on film. In case you don’t know, a micron is one millionth the length on a meter. Below, you can see the tiny bacterium and under it, a scale bar that is 100 nanometers.
The researchers who discovered it believe that these bacteria have reached the lowest size limit possible for life-forms on planet Earth.
The cells of this bacterium are so small that it would take more than 150,000 of them to simply fill up the space of the tip of a human hair. Also, for scale, you should know that the largest virus, the Pandoravirus, is around 1 micron across.
The tiny bacterium was discovered in water and scientists believe that they are most likely harmless and probably very common.
The fact that this bacterium is so small is only a part of why this discovery is so important. It’s also amazing that scientists have discovered a new life-form on Earth, one that they had no previous knowledge of.
So how do these bacteria survive? Well, scientists say that they have a very basic life cycle. They appear to store their genes into packed spirals and run on barebones metabolism. You can observe in the image above that at the end of the cell there are ribosomes, which produce protein and energy for the bacterium.
Also, they found that the DNA of the cells of these bacterium is around one million base pairs in length. They have pili, which are hair-like ends, which serve as connection wires to other bacteria. Researchers also believe that keeping into account that these bacteria lack many basic functions, they most likely rely on other bacteria for necessities.
There is still plenty scientists do not know about this newly discovered smallest life-form on Earth. Jillian F. Banfield, Earth Science professor and University of California, Berkeley Earth Science senior faculty scientist released a statement in which she said that these newly discovered ultra-small bacteria are an incredible example of a subset of the microbial life on our planet of which humans know almost nothing about.
Image Source: Berkley Lab