Bios Magazine: The Ancient Origin of Photosynthesis

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The origin of photosynthesis is a tale of biological thievery that started billions of years ago. Pixabay

The origin of photosynthesis is a tale of biological thievery that started billions of years ago

Back then, sulfur-dependent organisms lived on the ocean floor, gleaning energy from hydrothermal vents

Some bacteria developed "oxygen-evolving complexes" and "chlorophyll reaction centers," allowing them to extract electrons from water using light from the sun. The evolutionary innovations led to an exodus, and the first photosynthetic pioneers left for more well-lit pastures.

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In a Goldilocks Zone near the surface, cyanobacteria soaked up sunlight and produced oxygen, changing the makeup of the Earth's atmosphere

Complexity became the name of the evolutionary game and soon single-celled eukaryotes arrived on the scene. A hungry eukaryote eventually gobbled up cyanobacteria and through a process called endosymbiosis integrated the bacteria's light-feeding properties into its own biology

Life continued to diversify, leading to today's plants and a constantly evolving system in which no part is greater than the whole

Greg Watry is a science writer and communications specialist for the College of Biological Sciences

Steve Dana is a senior artist and graphics lead for UC Davis

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