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Researchers show that cyanobacteria promoted complex life on Earth

Cyanobacteria are responsible for the production of oxygen and nitrogen that were necessary for the development of multicellular life on Earth about 541 million years ago according to new research published in the Feb. 27, 2014, edition of the journal Current Biology by Dr. Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo and Professor Andy Ridgwell from the University of Bristol in Britain.

Stromatolites, Zebra River Canyon, Namibia 12 December 2010.
Stromatolites, Zebra River Canyon, Namibia 12 December 2010.
NimbusWeb I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain.
A cyanobacteria bloom near Fiji.
Norman Kuring NASA Earth Observatory Public domain as a work of NASA.

Cyanobacteria existed on Earth as early as 800 million years ago. Cyanobacteria are capable of photosynthesis and produce oxygen. These bacteria were the source of the oxygen needed for higher level organisms to develop cellular processes.

Cyanobacteria are also capable of converting nitrogen from the atmosphere into bioavailable nitrogen. Nitrogen is necessary for the production of the building blocks of amino acids.

Cyanobacteria existed on Earth as far back as 2.3 billion years ago according to the fossil record but did not exist in sufficient quantities in the world’s oceans to produce enough oxygen to create an oxygen atmosphere on Earth until around 800 million years ago.

This is the first research that ties the genetic data that is known about ancient cyanobacteria to known geological events like global glaciations and the appearance of the first mammals.

Recent research has shown that early mammal life did not require the high volume of oxygen to survive and thrive that present mammal life does.

All life on Earth may be the result of the natural cellular functions of simple cyanobacteria.