038 The First Cell

Single cell organisms evolve around underwater volcanic vents and many of them contain photo receptor proteins.
It’s 3,550 million years ago and if we were to compare it to a human life time, the earth is just 25 years old. This is a short summary of the 150 million years around this ‘birthday’.

The first known oxygen-producing bacteria had occurred just before this date, a trifling 50 million years actually, but by now, this ‘Day 38’ in the life of the Earth’s History, we had arrived at the single cell level.

Volcanic vents under the earth’s oceans allow mineral rich gas to dissolve in the sea water and provide sustenance for these single cells an event that prospers to this day. Within some of these cells, proteins reacted to photons of light and this was going to be the start of something big, much much later in complex life. Not just reacting to light photons, eventually full bodied, colour perceptive sight, in a small frequency range, what we call the ‘visible’ light spectrum.

If we now tack on another 50 million years, not much has changed but above the ocean surface, large areas of land are visible and Australia is part of a large continent at the south pole. Much later, it breaks away, leaving Antarctica to freeze in the cold currents that eventually encircled it.

By the passing of another 50 million years, Australia is still firmly attached but Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) had begun mass producing oxygen and some, living in Stromatalites, a sort of rock cabbage, still live in the salty water of Shark Bay in Western Australia, still consuming hydrogen and pumping out the waste product oxygen that was to prove so poisonous to the only life the planet had so far produced.

We will cover all these in much more detail soon.

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