In the earliest days of life on Earth, it had to solve the problems of how to reproduce, how to separate itself from its environment, how to acquire raw materials, and how to make the chemical reactions that it needed. But it was confined to those areas where it could take advantage of briefly available potential energy as . The earliest process of skimming energy from energy gradients to power life is called respiration. That earliest respiration is today called because there was virtually no free oxygen in the atmosphere or ocean in those early days. Respiration was life’s first energy cycle. A biological energy cycle begins by harvesting an energy gradient (usually by a proton crossing a membrane or, in photosynthesis, directly capturing photon energy), and the acquired energy powered chemical reactions. The cycle then proceeds in steps, and the reaction products of each step sequentially use a little more energy from the initial capture until the initial energy has been depleted and the cycle’s molecules are returned to their starting point and ready for a fresh influx of energy to repeat the cycle.
As with enzymes, the molecules used in biological processes are often huge and complex, but ATP energy drives all processes and that energy came from either potential chemical energy in Earth’s interior or sunlight, but even chemosynthetic organisms rely on sunlight to provide their energy. The Sun thus powers all life on Earth. The cycles that capture energy (photosynthesis or chemosynthesis) or produce it (fermentation or respiration) generally have many steps in them, and some cycles can run backwards, such as the . Below is a diagram of the citric acid (Krebs) cycle. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Trees first appeared during a plant diversity crisis, and the arrival of seed plants and ferns ended the dominance of the first trees, so the plant crises may have been more about evolutionary experiments than environmental conditions, although a carbon dioxide crash and ice age conditions would have impacted photosynthesizers. The that gave rise to trees and seed plants largely went extinct at the Devonian’s end. But what might have been the most dramatic extinction, as far as humans are concerned, was the impact on land vertebrates. During the about 20% of all families, 50% of all genera, and 70% of all species disappeared forever.
consist of body plans, which scientists have used to classify all life forms, and all significant animal phyla had appeared by the Cambrian Period’s end. The Cambrian Explosion has been difficult to explain and there is still great controversy and many unanswered questions, and it has also been difficult to explain why significant change stopped the explosion. Once the basic body plans appeared and biomes were filled, new plans never appeared again. Why did all fundamental change stop? The emerging view is the same for why complex life with and never changed since then. Not only could innovation confer great benefits, but , further travel along the developmental path made it continually less feasible to backtrack, start over, and take another path, or choose a fundamentally different path. The history of life’s choices was reflected in organisms in several ways, and the source of that inertia began to be understood when biology and chemistry at the cellular and subcellular levels were investigated, particularly after DNA was sequenced and studied. The fact that have not significantly changed in several hundred million years points to the issue. Hox genes have not changed because they control key developmental steps in embryonic development. Not only do Hox genes work, there are no practical ways to significantly change them, as they lay the animal’s structural foundation. Hox genes are called regulatory genes, and the nature of seems to be why animals have not fundamentally changed since the Cambrian Explosion.
Just as the aftermath of the appearance of complex life was uninteresting from a , as the amazingly diverse energy-generation strategies of archaea and bacteria were almost totally abandoned in favor of aerobic respiration, biological solutions to the problems that complex life presented were greatest during the Cambrian Explosion, and everything transpiring since then has been relatively insignificant. Animals would never see that level of innovation again. While investigating those eonic changes, many scientists have realized that the dynamics of those times might have been quite different from today’s, as once again may be of limited use for explaining what happened. Also, scientists generally use a rule-of-thumb called , or parsimony, which states that with all else being equal, simpler theories are preferred. , a seminal theorist regarding the scientific method, as they were easier to falsify. However, this issue presents many problems, and in recent times, theories of or speciation have invoked numerous interacting dynamics. Einstein noted that the more elegant and impressive the math used to support a theory, the less likely the theory depicted reality. Occam’s Razor has also become an unfortunate dogma in various circles, particularly , in which the of materialism and establishment science are defended, and often quite irrationally. Simplicity and complexity have been seesawing over the course of scientific history as fundamental principles. The recent trend toward multidisciplinary syntheses has been generally making hypotheses more complex and difficult to test, although and ever-increasing and more precise data makes the task more feasible than ever, at least situations in which are not interfering.
As we can see, there is a close relationship between the action spectrum and absorption spectrum of photosynthesis. There are many different types of photosynthetic pigments which will absorb light best at different wavelengths. However the most abundant photosynthetic pigment in plants is chlorophyll and therefore the rate of photosynthesis will be the greatest at wavelengths of light best absorbed by chlorophyll (400nm-525nm corresponding to violet-blue light). Very little light is absorbed by chlorophyll at wavelengths of light between 525nm and 625 (green-yellow light) so the rate of photosynthesis will be the least within this range. However, there are other pigments that are able to absorb green-yellow light such as carotene. Even though these are present in small amounts they allow a low rate of photosynthesis to occur at wavelengths of light that chlorophyll cannot absorb.
The action spectrum of photosynthesis is a graph showing the rate of photosynthesis for each wavelength of light. The rate of photosynthesis will not be the same for every wavelength of light. The rate of photosynthesis is the least with green-yellow light (525 nm-625 nm). Red-orange light (625nm-700nm) shows a good rate of photosynthesis however the best rate of photosynthesis is seen with violet-blue light (400nm-525nm).
A limiting factor is a factor that controls a process. Light intensity, temperature and carbon dioxide concentration are all factors which can control the rate of photosynthesis. Usually, only one of these factors will be the limiting factor in a plant at a certain time. This is the factor which is the furthest from its optimum level at a particular point in time. If we change the limiting factor the rate of photosynthesis will change but changes to the other factors will have no effect on the rate. If the levels of the limiting factor increase so that this factor is no longer the furthest from its optimum level, the limiting factor will change to the factor which is at that point in time, the furthest from its optimum level. For example, at night the limiting factor is likely to be the light intensity as this will be the furthest from its optimum level. During the day, the limiting factor is likely to switch to the temperature or the carbon dioxide concentration as the light intensity increases.
So how can these factors have an effect on the rate of photosynthesis? Lets start off with the light intensity. When the light intensity is poor, there is a shortage of ATP and NADPH, as these are products from the light dependent reactions. Without these products the light independent reactions can't occur as glycerate 3-phosphate cannot be reduced. Therefore a shortage of these products will limit the rate of photosynthesis. When the carbon dioxide concentration is low, the amount of glycerate 3-phosphate produced is limited as carbon dioxide is needed for its production and therefore the rate of photosynthesis is affected. Finally, many enzymes are involved during the process of photosynthesis. At low temperatures these enzymes work slower. At high temperatures the enzymes no longer work effectively. This affects the rate of the reactions in the Calvin cycle and therefore the rate of photosynthesis will be affected.
When the green plant is provided with a higher concentration of CO2 in
the environment it is photosynthesising in, the rate of photosynthesis
conducted by the plant will be higher - the availability of one of the
limiting factors was higher.
Effectively this shows
that if more of these limiting factors can be used by a larger sample
compared to a smaller sample, then the rate or amount at which the
products of photosynthesis are given off will be at a higher level