150,000 of these bacteria could fit on the tip of a hair, and that’s about as small as life can get

March 3, 2015 9:29 PM

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150,000 of these bacteria could fit on the tip of a hair, and that’s about as small as life can get

Scientists don’t just go looking for massive and distant galaxies when they want to explore the unknown. There’s plenty to be learned from the other end of nature’s size spectrum, too. In a recent Nature Communications paper, researchers present some of the first detailed microscopy images of what are probably the tiniest living things in the world.

These aptly named “ultra-small bacteria” have an average volume of just .009 cubic microns. Since microns aren’t exactly part of our standard measurement lexicon, here’s a reminder: A micron is one millionth the length of a meter. That means that 150 of these bacteria could fit into the better-known...

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