Cyanobacteria: Oxygen and Aerobic Respiration Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 30 December 2016

Cyanobacteria: Oxygen and Aerobic Respiration

Cyanobacteria’s big advantage over other early life forms was their ability to perform photosynthesis. They contain a blue photo reactive pigment that can absorb the energy from the sunlight and use it to produce nutrients for the cell. During this process, water molecules are broken down into oxygen and hydrogen atoms which are then released in the air. In the very early days of life, Earth was populated only by anaerobic bacteria that didn’t need oxygen to survive. When cyanobacteria first made their appearance and started engaging in their photosynthetic reactions, large amounts of oxygen were suddenly released in the atmosphere. This lead to what is known as the Great Oxygenation Event, which took place around 2.5 billion years ago. As far as we know, the Great Oxygenation Event induced by cyanobacteria’s photosynthesis has probably been the largest extinction of life forms to ever take place on the planet. Trillions of anaerobic bacteria were suddenly asphyxiated by the presence of oxygen and wiped off the face of the Earth. http://www.fastbleep.com/blog/2012/04/26/cyanobacteria-and-smarties/

without cyanobacteria (or something with similar capabilities) earth would be an anaerobic world incapable of harvesting the sun’s energy. Cyanobacteria infused the atmosphere with oxygen, provided photosynthesis to plants through endosymbiosis, and increased the amount of usable nitrogen by fixing atmospheric N2 into ammonia. Many of these little photosynthetic factories can undertake conflicting metabolic processes within a single cell, such as photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation. With the need for renewable sources of energy and industrial products, cyanobacteria present themselves as an excellent self-contained platform for metabolic engineering and subsequent green chemical production.

April 11, 2011 Cyanobacteria: Growing a Green Future Around the Clock by Spencer Diamond and Britt Flaherty http://schaechter.asmblog.org/schaechter/2011/04/cyanobacteria-growing-a-green-future-around-the-clock.html

Animals need oxygen. “You cannot evolve animals like us without having a significant amount of oxygen,” says geochemist Dick Holland of Harvard University. “Without the Great Oxidation Event [a dramatic rise of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere some 2.3 billion years ago], we would not be here. No dinosaurs, no fish, no snakes – just a lot of microorganisms.” http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/541/the-rise-of-oxygen

aerobic respiration A type of respiration in which foodstuffs (usually carbohydrates) are completely oxidized to carbon dioxide and water, with the release of chemical energy, in a process requiring atmospheric oxygen. The reaction can be summarized by the equation: C6H12O6 + 6O2 → 6CO2 + 6H2O + energy The chemical energy released is stored mainly in the form of ATP. The first stage of aerobic respiration is glycolysis, which takes place in the cytosol of cells and also occurs in fermentations and other forms of anaerobic respiration. Further oxidation in the presence of oxygen is via the Krebs cycle and electron transport chain, enzymes for which are located in the mitochondria of eukaryote cells. “aerobic respiration.” A Dictionary of Biology. 2004. Retrieved January 30, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O6-aerobicrespiration.html

First, let’s start out by defining aerobic and anaerobic respiration, since this will be the basis of this discussion. According to a source from Encyclopedia, “aerobic respiration is a type of respiration in which carbohydrates are completely oxidized to carbon dioxide and water, with the release of chemical energy, in a process requiring atmospheric oxygen.” In order for eukaryotic cells to exist, aerobic respiration is needed, as well as oxygen to carry out the many other functions of life. Dick Holland, a Geochemist from Harvard University states that “you cannot evolve animals like us without having a significant amount of oxygen” (Astrobio). The planet Earth uses “oxidation in the presence of oxygen via the Krebs cycle and electron transport chain, enzymes for which are located in the mitochondria of eukaryote cells” (Encyclopedia).

Anaerobic respiration does not need oxygen to facilitate life, but these life forms are limited to microorganisms. If Earth did not have oxygen and was forced to only use anaerobic respiration, the Earth would be made up of mostly a wide variety of bacteria; human life would indefinitely be impossible. According to Diamond and Flaherty, life “without cyanobacteria (or something with similar capabilities) earth would be an anaerobic world incapable of harvesting the sun’s energy.” Plants on earth today use the sun’s energy to perform photosynthesis. With that being said, if the world did not have an oxygen rich atmosphere and only had means of anaerobic respiration, vegetation would not exist and therefore human life could not even begin to evolve. Once cyanobacteria came about it “started engaging in photosynthetic reactions, large amounts of oxygen were suddenly released in the atmosphere.

This lead to what is known as the Great Oxygenation Event, which took place around 2.5 billion years ago (Fastbleep). Therefore, without cyanobacteria, our planet would not be enriched with oxygen like it is today, allowing humans and other life forms to live a sustainable life. We would start to see a domino effect on Earth of microorganisms replicating and reproducing if there were only anaerobic respiration. The Earth would be richer in nitrogen because “cyanobacteria infused the atmosphere with oxygen, provided photosynthesis to plants through endosymbiosis, and increased the amount of usable nitrogen by fixing atmospheric N2 into ammonia” (Diamond and Flaherty). Once cyanobacteria started to release oxygen on Earth it created the “largest extinction of life forms to ever take place on the planet.

Trillions of anaerobic bacteria were suddenly asphyxiated by the presence of oxygen and wiped off the face of the Earth (Fastbleep). Without the presence of cyanobacteria and aerobic respiration, I would not be sitting here typing this discussion and of course you would not be here reading it! 1. “aerobic respiration.”

A Dictionary of Biology. 2004. Retrieved January 30, 2013 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O6-aerobicrespiration.html 2. Dick Holland, Harvard University. http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/541/the-rise-of-oxygen. 3. April 11, 2011 Cyanobacteria: Growing a Green Future Around the Clock by Spencer Diamond and Britt Flaherty http://schaechter.asmblog.org/schaechter/2011/04/cyanobacteria-growing-a-green-future-around-the-clock.htm. 4. Fastbleep – http://www.fastbleep.com/blog/2012/04/26/cyanobacteria-and-smarties/

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