If you'd read about abiogenesis, the intimate history of how life started on Earth, you'd most likely know that the first lifeforms on Earth didn't just suddenly appear as the "fully-formed" cells we know of today (unless you consider the panspermia hypothesis), that they instead had arisen from a multitude of types of so-called pre-biotic molecules that eventually formed a sort of symbiotic relationship, and that there were a multitude of possible certifiably living organisms coexisting amongst the first cells as we know them today that were structured quite differently; some may have been RNA-based, possibly even using folds of RNA in the place of proteins; others weren't even cellular at all, but possessed protein capsule in lieu of lipid membranes, or were free-existing loops of nucleic acids. Cellular life seems (and please take note of my emphasis on "seems") to have outcompeted most of those other progenitors for life, but it may also seem that some of them still exist among us to this very day, if you're willing to consider the possibility that viruses are alive.
I do also think, however… Is it possible that other forms of these ancient progenitors may also still persist somewhere within the remote reaches of the Earth that have scarcely (if at all) changed since the components for Earth life first arose? Perhaps in the far, far, hadal depths of the still so largely-unexplored ocean, from which life has been postulated to have originated?
I dare ask: why not?
This may be pushing the envelope a bit, but while we're at it, why not consider the possibility that these para-cellular lifeforms may exist much closer to the ocean's surface, lurking within the shadows of the supposedly "dominant" cellular organisms? Or that they may even lurk amongst us humans, right under our very noses? There's only so much of the entire planet we can currently explore with just microscopes. Or who knows? Maybe somehow, somewhere, they may reside within our very bodies…
"What would happen if...?" has always been a staple of Science Fiction. What do you wonder about?
I had never heard of abiogenesis. Thank you for the thoughts about it and the possibility that they may still exist today. It is an intriguing speculation. I immediately think of our own predecessors that were absorbed or died out. But the tiny forms that you describe would not necessarily be in competition with the cellular beings.
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