Largest Single-Celled Organism Found 6 Miles Beneath Sea

By Douglas Main | October 24, 2011 4:06 pm

Researchers have found new examples of the strange singled-celled creatures called xenophyophores more than six miles beneath the surface of the Pacific in the Mariana Trench. At more than four inches in length, they are perhaps the largest single-celled organism on Earth. These protists make a living by sifting through sediments and can accumulate high levels of toxic metals like uranium, lead, and mercury.

Read more at LiveScience.

Image: Lisa Levin & David Checkley, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • Mike Empyema

    Caulerpa taxifolia is a single cell, and it can cover acres: Astoundingly invasive, metastatic, toxic; ecologically ablative to all other species. It is a benthic beauty, a single cell that has evolved all jiggy.

  • badnicolez

    they are perhaps the largest “known” single-celled organism on Earth?

  • Chris Lawson

    Mike — Caulerpa taxifolia can grow enormous colonies, and since it reproduces asexually, the cells that make up these colonies will be clones of each other, but they are still individual cells and it would take trillions of them to cover acres.

  • Sreenivas

    What about an Ostrich egg? Can anyone tell me if it is a single cell?

  • Michelle

    Mike, I can find no evidence that Caulerpa taxifolia is a single celled organism.

  • Geack

    @ Mike – Caulerpa taxifolia is an algae – it covers acres with bajillions of tiny single-cell organisms. This thing in the article is just one great big individual cell.
    @Sreenivas – The old “is an egg a cell” debate has raged for decades. Depends on how you define the egg’s membrane, if I recall right… In any case an egg isn’t a “single-celled organism” – prior to fertilization, it’s a single cell (or has a single cell in it, depending on your take on the argument), but it’s not an organisn until it’s fertilized, at which point it has two cells, and then lots more…

  • John (The Other Canadian)

    Slime molds are single multinuclear cells.
    Much bigger than four inches.
    And come in a variety of exciting colors.

  • Ted

    @badnocolez —
    I’m pretty sure the word “perhaps” in the original article covers the possibility that there could be larger single-cell organisms that have yet to be discovered.

  • Jorj

    No. The ostrich egg is not a single cell. It consists of millions of cells inside the shell.

  • Paul

    ‘one big individual cell’ ? …Well, according to the link in the above article it is arguably not unicellular –

    “Xenophyophores are sometimes referred to as the largest unicellular organisms, but as I’ve mentioned before, that’s arguably not entirely appropriate.” –

  • ENT-TT

    I’m curious to know if a dietary analysis was performed on the fauna which share the floor with Xenophyophorea, and those which live elsewhere. Is there a consistent corollary between the number of ‘phores, the number of other Things, and the levels of toxic heavy metals present in each group? Do the ‘phores neighbors benefit from cohabitation in a less toxic environment?

  • Marco P

    Caulerpa consist definitely of only one cell with many nuclei. Beside wikipedia (see Caulerpa) there are at least an article in Scientific American and one in Science&Vie saying that.
    Also the ostrich egg is definitely a single cell.

  • Ryan B

    Don’t make an image clickable when it does not expand the size of the image. I clicked through three times to see an image of the exact same size as presented in the article. This is a dishonest way to get more page hits. Cut it out.

  • Uday Chandan

    LOL! We should harvest them for fissionable materials! :)


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