JAN 05, 2017 9:19 AM PST

What is the Biggest Single-Celled Organism?

WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Ellis

We are all multi-cellular beings. Mammals, amphibians and reptiles all are made up of complicated combinations of smaller cells. Of course, there are single-celled animals, but they are all extremely small. How come we don't see any single-celled elephants? Think of what would happen if a single celled organism were punctured or infected. It would die. When one cell in a multi-celled organism dies, it gets replaced. However, if we were made up of only one cell, we would die, too. Also, the surface to volume ratio of smaller cells is optimized for expelling waste and absorbing nutrients. Most single cells cannot accommodate a larger size because its volume would overtake its surface area and the cell would burst.

Caulerpa taxifolia appears to be the world's largest single-celled organism. It can grow up to 30 cm long and has some unique properties that allow it to grow as a single cell. It has a large surface area ratio, uses photosynthesis to make its own food, and has multiple nuclei. This plant seems to have figured out a way to proliferate with only one cell, proving it is possible but has limits, particularly in size.
About the Author
  • I love all things science and am passionate about bringing science to the public through writing. With an M.S. in Genetics and experience in cancer research, marketing and technical writing, it is a pleasure to share the latest trends and findings in science on LabRoots.
You May Also Like
AUG 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
Scientists Discover Record-Breaking Rodent
AUG 05, 2020
Scientists Discover Record-Breaking Rodent
In a year of extremes, researchers have also unveiled a new record-breaking animal—the highest dwelling mammal on ...
AUG 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Are There More Rogue Planets than Stars?
AUG 22, 2020
Are There More Rogue Planets than Stars?
Researchers from Ohio State University have theorized that there may be more rogue planets (planets that don't orbit ...
AUG 27, 2020
Plants & Animals
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
AUG 27, 2020
Polar Bear Populations Could Collapse by 2100
A new study reports that polar bear populations could collapse in the next 80 years if greenhouse gas emissions remain a ...
SEP 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Sets New Diving Record
SEP 24, 2020
Cuvier's Beaked Whale Sets New Diving Record
Marine mammals are uniquely adapted to dive to incredible depths. New research from Duke University Marine Laboratory do ...
NOV 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
NOV 18, 2020
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
From pandemic precautions to televised talent shows, masks are having a moment. Even this bizarre bat species has a buil ...
JAN 04, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
JAN 04, 2021
Did Intelligent Civilizations Roam Our Galaxy 5 Billion Years Ago?
Researchers have found that there were likely many intelligent alien civilizations sprawled across our galaxy billions o ...
Loading Comments...