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Detailed pictures of smallest life forms

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Really small:

The snapshots may not look like much, but they’re revealing a lot about lifeforms at this extremely miniscule size. For one thing, their metabolisms are so minimal that they likely depend on resources from other bacteria to stay alive. While there’s still a lot that remains a mystery (it’s not certain what half of the genes do), this up-close imagery could eventually fill in a lot of blanks in biology — it’s clear that there’s a world of unusual organisms that have gone largely unnoticed. Engadget

Note: If they depend on other bacteria for resources, they probably aren’t going to help much with origin of life studies. They might well be devolved from more metabolically endowed free-living organisms. But there is still so much we don’t know.

See also:

Origin of life: Suzan Mazur to Larry Krauss: Darwinism now marginalized (In his response Krauss does not mention information, the vast amounts of which chiefly distinguish life from non-life.)


A synopsis of origin of life

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Here is the abstract of the paper:
Bacteria from phyla lacking cultivated representatives are widespread in natural systems and some have very small genomes. Here we test the hypothesis that these cells are small and thus might be enriched by filtration for coupled genomic and ultrastructural characterization. Metagenomic analysis of groundwater that passed through a ~0.2-?m filter reveals a wide diversity of bacteria from the WWE3, OP11 and OD1 candidate phyla. Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy demonstrates that, despite morphological variation, cells consistently have small cell size (0.009±0.002??m3). Ultrastructural features potentially related to cell and genome size minimization include tightly packed spirals inferred to be DNA, few densely packed ribosomes and a variety of pili-like structures that might enable inter-organism interactions that compensate for biosynthetic capacities inferred to be missing from genomic data. The results suggest that extremely small cell size is associated with these relatively common, yet little known organisms.
And this is another paper about the genomes: http://mbio.asm.org/content/4/5/e00708-13.full.pdf+html gpuccio
About the genome of these strange beings: "The bacteria’s genomes were sequenced at the Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility located in Walnut Creek, California, under the guidance of Susannah Tringe. The genomes were about one million base pairs in length." That's, however, more than the genome of mycoplasma genitalium (580,070 base pairs). And: "“We don’t know the function of half the genes we found in the organisms from these three phyla,” says Banfield." Interesting, indeed. gpuccio

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