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The part a photo shows a reddish-yellow mound with small chimneys growing out of it. Part b micrograph shows rod-shaped bacteria about two microns long swimming over a thicker mat of bacteria.
This (a) microbial mat, about one meter in diameter, grows over a hydrothermal vent in the Pacific Ocean in a region known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire.” The mat helps retain microbial nutrients. Chimneys such as the one indicated by the arrow allow gases to escape. (b) In this micrograph, bacteria are visualized using fluorescence microscopy. (credit a: modification of work by Dr. Bob Embley, NOAA PMEL, Chief Scientist; credit b: modification of work by Ricardo Murga, Rodney Donlan, CDC; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

Stromatolites

Fossilized microbial mats represent the earliest record of life on Earth. A stromatolite    is a sedimentary structure formed when minerals are precipitated out of water by prokaryotes in a microbial mat ( [link] ). Stromatolites form layered rocks made of carbonate or silicate. Although most stromatolites are artifacts from the past, there are places on Earth where stromatolites are still forming. For example, growing stromatolites have been found in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, California.

 Photo A shows a mass of gray mounds in shallow water. Photo B shows a swirl patter in white and gray marbled rock.
(a) These living stromatolites are located in Shark Bay, Australia. (b) These fossilized stromatolites, found in Glacier National Park, Montana, are nearly 1.5 billion years old. (credit a: Robert Young; credit b: P. Carrara, NPS)

The ancient atmosphere

Evidence indicates that during the first two billion years of Earth’s existence, the atmosphere was anoxic    , meaning that there was no molecular oxygen. Therefore, only those organisms that can grow without oxygen— anaerobic    organisms—were able to live. Autotrophic organisms that convert solar energy into chemical energy are called phototrophs , and they appeared within one billion years of the formation of Earth. Then, cyanobacteria    , also known as blue-green algae, evolved from these simple phototrophs one billion years later. Cyanobacteria ( [link] ) began the oxygenation of the atmosphere. Increased atmospheric oxygen allowed the development of more efficient O 2 -utilizing catabolic pathways. It also opened up the land to increased colonization, because some O 2 is converted into O 3 (ozone) and ozone effectively absorbs the ultraviolet light that would otherwise cause lethal mutations in DNA. Ultimately, the increase in O 2 concentrations allowed the evolution of other life forms.

This photo shows a woman squatting next to a stream of green-colored water.
This hot spring in Yellowstone National Park flows toward the foreground. Cyanobacteria in the spring are green, and as water flows down the gradient, the intensity of the color increases as cell density increases. The water is cooler at the edges of the stream than in the center, causing the edges to appear greener. (credit: Graciela Brelles-Mariño)

Microbes are adaptable: life in moderate and extreme environments

Some organisms have developed strategies that allow them to survive harsh conditions. Prokaryotes thrive in a vast array of environments: Some grow in conditions that would seem very normal to us, whereas others are able to thrive and grow under conditions that would kill a plant or animal. Almost all prokaryotes have a cell wall, a protective structure that allows them to survive in both hyper- and hypo-osmotic conditions. Some soil bacteria are able to form endospores that resist heat and drought, thereby allowing the organism to survive until favorable conditions recur. These adaptations, along with others, allow bacteria to be the most abundant life form in all terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Questions & Answers

what is abiotic?
Williams Reply
state 2 abiotic factors that affect the rate of transpiration in plants?
Benenge
non living things
Chris
what is a cell
Esther Reply
what is contained in a smooth endoplasmic reticulum?
Bleyd Reply
sperm
Chris
cool
Jo
sorry i meant the structure within the smooth endoplasmic reticulum
Bleyd
what is cell made of
Jo Reply
what is sponge
Joseph Reply
what is a photometer
Abigail Reply
what is respiration
Alao Reply
Is the release of energy from food substance in a living organism
innocent
What is cytoplasm
Nitta Reply
Parasitic adaptation of tapeworm
Angela Reply
Describe osmoregulator or osmoconformers and how these tools allow animals to adapt to different environment.
Alick Reply
describe the secondary function of a leaf to a plant.
Twizera Reply
hi I'm asking a question about HIV infection, can HIV infection transmitted from Mother to unbron child? please help me I So confused.
Khushboy Reply
no it can't
Ahmad
yes it can but their is an injection that can be used to prevent it.
Gift
Ahmad how no?
Khushboy
Hi im new
innocent
no, unless when giving birth
Bright
YES
Kaole
it is can be transmitted but there is an injection that the mother is injected to prevent the disease
Nia
OK
Kaole
I agree with nia
peter
but I think HIV infection can be transmitted through blood so the unborn baby can be affected by HIV when a slight mistake occurred that what i think
Salim
yes, but there is a treatment however, using a retroviral therapy and injection to prevent the unborn child unscathed from the infection
Gula
what is the difference between primary and secondary active transport in detail? I didn't understand the steps in the textbook specifically
Fathima Reply
you are a doctor?
Mohammed
what is the meaning of connective tissue?
Mohammed Reply
what are the characteristics of living things
Owolo Reply
hi
Mohammed
what's the meaning of connective tissue?
Mohammed
Reproduction, adaptation, interaction, movement, growth, respiration, made of cells, responsive to environment (homeostasis), metabolic action (consumption of food converted into energy)
garret
Movement, reproduction, nutrition, irritability, growth, excretion, respiration, death, adaptation, competition
peter

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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