No conclusive evidence exists that these structures are, or are not, living organisms, so their classification is controversial.
The 1996 discovery of nanobes was published in 1998 by Philippa Uwins et al., from the University of Queensland, Australia. They were found growing from rock samples (both full-diameter and sidewall cores) of Jurassic and Triassic sandstones, originally retrieved from an unspecified number of oil exploration wells off Australia's west coast. Depths of retrieval were between and below the sea bed. While Uwins et al. present assertions against it, they do not exclude the possibility that the nanobes are from a surface contaminant, not from the rock units cited.
The smallest are just 20 nanometers in diameter. Some researchers believe that these structures are crystal growths, but the staining of these structures with dyes that bind to DNA might indicate that they are living organisms. They are similar to the structures found in ALH84001, a Mars meteorite found in the Antarctic. Nanobes are similar in size to nanobacteria, which are also structures that have been proposed to be extremely small living organisms. However, these two should not be confused. Nanobacteria are supposed to be cellular organisms, while nanobes are hypothesized to be a previously unknown form of life or protocells.