What is the simplest biological organism from which a DNA sample has been or could be obtained? Could the resulting DNA be processed and examined in such a way that the resulting information would give biologists a rudimentary understanding of life's minimal requirements?

  • $\begingroup$ I think scientists already have an good understanding of "life's minimal requirements". What you need to do is define life for yourself. $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2014 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ You should also look at Synthetic biology and Mycoplasma laboratorium, which deals with minimum requirements of life. $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2014 at 7:53

1 Answer 1


Could not fit in a comment...

This post (and the excellent answer from Richard Smith-Unna) lists the species that have the smallest genome that we are aware of in different clades.

Yes we can/could sequence these tiny genomes and try to understand what each sequence does. I think that to understand the minimum requirements for life you will mostly be interested in theoretical cytology and synthetic biology than in sequencing simple genomes.

Note that the basic requirement really depends on how you define life. Is a virus alive although it has no metabolism? Would a self-replicating RNA be a living thing? Because we were able to artificially synthesize self-replicating RNA. While the subject is interesting, the main issue is a purely philosophical one: How do you define life?

  • $\begingroup$ Consider prions... $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2014 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, prions is another example of limit case $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Oct 10, 2014 at 5:21

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