Solar ultraviolet and the evolutionary history of cyanobacteria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

126 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

On the basis of photobiological, evolutionary, paleontological, paleoenvironmental and physiological arguments, a time course for the role of solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR, wavelengths below 400 nm) in the ecology and evolution of cyanobacteria is proposed in which three main periods can be distinguished. An initial stage, before the advent of oxygenic photosynthesis, when high environmental fluxes of UVC (wavelengths below 280 nm) and UVB (280-320 nm) may have depressed the ability of protocyanobacteria to develop large populations or restricted them to UVR refuges. A second stage lasting between 500 and 1500 Ma (million years) started with the appearance of true oxygen-evolving cyanobacteria and the concomitant formation of oxygenated (micro)environments under an oxygen free atmosphere. In this second stage, the age of UV, the overall importance of UVR must have increased substantially, since the incident fluxes of UVC and UVB remained virtually unchanged, but additionally the UVA portion of the spectrum (320-400 nm) suddenly became biologically injurious and extremely reactive oxygen species must have formed wherever oxygen and UVR spatially coincided. The last period began with the gradual oxygenation of the atmosphere and the formation of the stratospheric ozone shield. The physiological stress due to UVC all but disappeared and the effects of UBV were reduced to a large extent. Evidence in support of this dynamics is drawn from the phylogenetic distribution of biochemical UV-defense mechanisms among cyanobacteria and other microorganisms. The specific physical characteristics of UVR and oxygen exposure in planktonic, sedimentary and terrestrial habitats are used to explore the plausible impact of UVR in each of the periods on the ecological distribution of cyanobacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-347
Number of pages27
JournalOrigins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere
Volume28
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1998
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Cyanobacteria
cyanobacterium
History
histories
Oxygen
ultraviolet radiation
oxygen
history
Atmosphere
wavelengths
Stratospheric Ozone
wavelength
Physiological Stress
defense mechanism
atmosphere
oxygenation
free atmosphere
Photosynthesis
Ecology
ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Solar ultraviolet and the evolutionary history of cyanobacteria. / Garcia-Pichel, Ferran.

In: Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, Vol. 28, No. 3, 06.1998, p. 321-347.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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