This is a real creature. It’s not from J.J. Abrams’ next monster movie, this guy is 100% real. But it’s so small that it’s pretty much invisible to the naked eye.
Yes, this is a hydrothermal worm, as viewed under a powerful electron microscope — one that’s zoomed in 525 times. According to the Huffington Post, the image was taken using an FEI Quanta SEM. The bacteria-sized worms live in the deep sea, and are mostly found around hydrothermal vents.
Without the closeup, you probably wouldn’t even be able to see the worm at all: It’s about half a millimeter long. As HP notes, “It’s far larger than an atom, but still among the smallest living things.”
And for this I thank the awesome power of technology (in this case the electron microscope company FEI’s) for allowing us to get better acquainted with the diverse, hitherto unknowable forms of life out there. Even if the end result is those diverse forms of life scaring the crap out of us.
See other closeup shots taken with electron microscopes at FEI’s Flickr reel.