<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the endosymbiotic theory
  • Explain the origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts

The fossil record and genetic evidence suggest that prokaryotic cells were the first organisms on Earth. These cells originated approximately 3.5 billion years ago, which was about 1 billion years after Earth’s formation, and were the only life forms on the planet until eukaryotic cells emerged approximately 2.1 billion years ago. During the prokaryotic reign, photosynthetic prokaryotes evolved that were capable of applying the energy from sunlight to synthesize organic materials (like carbohydrates) from carbon dioxide and an electron source (such as hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, or water).

Photosynthesis using water as an electron donor consumes carbon dioxide and releases molecular oxygen (O 2 ) as a byproduct. The functioning of photosynthetic bacteria over millions of years progressively saturated Earth’s water with oxygen and then oxygenated the atmosphere, which previously contained much greater concentrations of carbon dioxide and much lower concentrations of oxygen. Older anaerobic prokaryotes of the era could not function in their new, aerobic environment. Some species perished, while others survived in the remaining anaerobic environments left on Earth. Still other early prokaryotes evolved mechanisms, such as aerobic respiration, to exploit the oxygenated atmosphere by using oxygen to store energy contained within organic molecules. Aerobic respiration is a more efficient way of obtaining energy from organic molecules, which contributed to the success of these species (as evidenced by the number and diversity of aerobic organisms living on Earth today). The evolution of aerobic prokaryotes was an important step toward the evolution of the first eukaryote, but several other distinguishing features had to evolve as well.


The origin of eukaryotic cells was largely a mystery until a revolutionary hypothesis was comprehensively examined in the 1960s by Lynn Margulis. The endosymbiotic theory states that eukaryotes are a product of one prokaryotic cell engulfing another, one living within another, and evolving together over time until the separate cells were no longer recognizable as such. This once-revolutionary hypothesis had immediate persuasiveness and is now widely accepted, with work progressing on uncovering the steps involved in this evolutionary process as well as the key players. It has become clear that many nuclear eukaryotic genes and the molecular machinery responsible for replicating and expressing those genes appear closely related to the Archaea. On the other hand, the metabolic organelles and the genes responsible for many energy-harvesting processes had their origins in bacteria. Much remains to be clarified about how this relationship occurred; this continues to be an exciting field of discovery in biology. Several endosymbiotic events likely contributed to the origin of the eukaryotic cell.

Questions & Answers

Species A has 12 pairs of chromosomes and Species B has 11 pairs of chromosomes. Explain what occurs during mitosis and during meiosis in the hybrid that allows normal development and growth from zygote to adult, but causes the adults to be sterile.
Christina Reply
Why does water move through a membrane?
Christina Reply
How many bones are in the human skeleton
Treasure Reply
procce of digestion of proteins a long human alimentarycanal
Carson Reply
what are the properties of lipids?
Isiah Reply
They are: Fatty acids, fats, oils, waxes, phospholipid, glycolipids, steroids and some vitamins
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
Ammonia is the end product of protein catabolism and is stored in the body of the fish in high concentrations relative to basal excretion rates. Ammonia, if allowed to accumulate, is toxic and is converted to less toxic compounds or excreted
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.

Get the best Concepts of biology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Concepts of biology' conversation and receive update notifications?