Ultra-small bacteria believed to be about as tiny as life can get, have been captured in these microscopic images.
The existence of ultra-small bacteria (aka “nanobacteria” or “nannobacteria”) has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.
They are about 200 nanometers (.2 micrometers) in width with a volume of only about 0.009 cubic
nanomicrons (millionth of a meter). About 150 of these bacteria could fit inside an Escherichia coli bacteria cell.
The diverse bacteria were found in groundwater and are thought to be quite common. This is the smallest a cell can be and still accommodate enough material to sustain life, the researchers say.
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.
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