This adorable little blob may represent the smallest size at which a living organism can exist.
It could be cute?
Photographed using high-powered cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, these images (published recently in Nature Communications) are the first detailed observations of what are termed "ultramicrobacteria."
The question of how small a free-living organism can be lacks a scientific consensus. The discovery of these ultra-small bacteria lowers that limit to a level some scientists thought to be impossible. The existence of such small organisms has been debated for two decades, but now we know for sure they are for real. What we don't know, though, is what they are all about.
"These newly described ultra-small bacteria are an example of a subset of the microbial life on earth that we know almost nothing about," said Jill Banfield, an Earth sciences professor at UC Berkeley and a scientist at the Berkeley Laboratory, in a press release.
We do know, though, that they are crazy small. They have an average volume of 0.009 cubic microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter).
So how small is 0.009 cubic microns?