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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the evolutionary history of prokaryotes
  • Describe the basic structure of a typical prokaryote
  • Identify bacterial diseases that caused historically important plagues and epidemics
  • Describe the uses of prokaryotes in food processing and bioremediation

Prokaryotes are present everywhere. They cover every imaginable surface where there is sufficient moisture, and they live on and inside of other living things. There are more prokaryotes inside and on the exterior of the human body than there are human cells in the body. Some prokaryotes thrive in environments that are inhospitable for most other living things. Prokaryotes recycle nutrients—essential substances (such as carbon and nitrogen)—and they drive the evolution of new ecosystems, some of which are natural while others are man-made. Prokaryotes have been on Earth since long before multicellular life appeared.

Prokaryotic diversity

The advent of DNA sequencing provided immense insight into the relationships and origins of prokaryotes that were not possible using traditional methods of classification. A major insight identified two groups of prokaryotes that were found to be as different from each other as they were from eukaryotes. This recognition of prokaryotic diversity forced a new understanding of the classification of all life and brought us closer to understanding the fundamental relationships of all living things, including ourselves.

Early life on earth

When and where did life begin? What were the conditions on Earth when life began? Prokaryotes were the first forms of life on Earth, and they existed for billions of years before plants and animals appeared. Earth is about 4.54 billion years old. This estimate is based on evidence from the dating of meteorite material, since surface rocks on Earth are not as old as Earth itself. Most rocks available on Earth have undergone geological changes that make them younger than Earth itself. Some meteorites are made of the original material in the solar disk that formed the objects of the solar system, and they have not been altered by the processes that altered rocks on Earth. Thus, the age of meteorites is a good indicator of the age of the formation of Earth. The original estimate of 4.54 billion years was obtained by Clare Patterson in 1956. His meticulous work has since been corroborated by ages determined from other sources, all of which point to an Earth age of about 4.54 billion years.

Early Earth had a very different atmosphere than it does today. Evidence indicates that during the first 2 billion years of Earth’s existence, the atmosphere was anoxic    , meaning that there was no oxygen. Therefore, only those organisms that can grow without oxygen— anaerobic    organisms—were able to live. Organisms that convert solar energy into chemical energy are called phototrophs . Phototrophic organisms that required an organic source of carbon 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 are able to use carbon dioxide as a source of carbon. Cyanobacteria ( [link] ) began the oxygenation of the atmosphere. The increase in oxygen concentration allowed the evolution of other life forms.

Questions & Answers

what are the properties of lipids?
Isiah Reply
explain why a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
Leonard Reply
plz answer my question
sorry i meant it has a nucleous unlike plant cells lol
What are eukaryotic cells?
Nwosueke Reply
cell with no nucleous so not a plant cell
eukaryotic cells are membrane bound organelles that have a membrane bound nucleus
where does the cell get energy for active transport processes?
A'Kaysion Reply
IDK maybe glucose
what is synapsis
Adepoju Reply
how many turns are required to make a molecule of sucrose in Calvin cycle
Amina Reply
why Calvin cycle occurs in stroma
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide?
Maryam Reply
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide? For the purpose of breaking down the food
what is allele
uzoka Reply
process of protein synthesis
what is cell
Zulf Reply
a cell is a smallest basic, structural and functional unit of life that is capable of self replication
why does a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
plz answer my question
Ammonia is a toxic colorless gas and when its inside the fish biological system is converted to a less toxic compound then excreted in the form of urea. However too much ammonia will kill the fish " Ammonia Poisoning " which is a very common disease among fish.
what is cytoplasm
uzoka Reply
cytoplasm is fluid of cell.
how many major types of Cloning
Saeed Reply
comparative anatomy of gymnosperms?
Meenakshi Reply
anatomy of gymnosperms
how genes are regulated
Ainjue Reply
what is storage of glycogen
Student Reply
glycogen is a protein content

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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