Scientists were able to obtain the first images and a complete DNA description of the smallest bacteria on Earth. Until now, the existence of such bacteria was only a hypothesis, therefore researchers are thrilled with their new accomplishment.
The team was able to obtain the imagery by using the world’s most accurate electron microscope, which uses a beam of accelerated electrons to recreate an image of the sample examined. Scientists found that the smallest size life may get is no larger than 0.009 cubic microns.
To get a clue on what that may mean, about 150 of these ultra-small bacteria could be stacked into a cell of Escherichia coli, while more than 150,000 cells could be placed on the tip of a human hair.
The imagery of the bacteria was gathered by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and their findings were published Friday in Nature Communications.
These bacteria are not unusual. They are usually found in groundwater, but their shape is quite uncommon and different from other similar microorganisms. Scientists were dazed to learn that although it is the smallest life-form known to man it can still accommodate all the things necessary to host life.
According to the findings, the cell’s DNA is incredibly packed; they also have several ribosomes and appendages, and a kept-to-a-minimum metabolism that most likely forces them to rely on other bacteria for many of their functions.
The bacteria originate in three microbial phyla, but scientists do not know yet what their role may be in our food and water supplies, or out planet’s climate. Scientists described them as “ultra-small” and “enigmatic.” But they acknowledged that they knew no other details about them.
“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, co-author of the discovery, a scientist at the Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division, and co-corresponding author for the paper published in the Nature Communications.
Hitherto, there wasn’t a consensus within the scientific community on the smallest size a living micro-organism can take and on “its space optimization strategies.” But the new research brings important insights in describing the size, shape and internal mechanisms of such ultra-small microorganisms, researchers said.
The ultra-small bacteria were DNA mapped at the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, Calif. According to the genomic data, these microorganisms lack many basic functions, so they likely lead a semi-parasitic life to gather their critical resources, the research team explained.
Image Source: News Center
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