Life is easy for the biosphere's first beings, fermenting a pantry filled with free organic compounds formed in the atmosphere. These anaerobic (living in the absence of oxygen) freeloaders create life's first food crisis: rapidly reproducing, they consume food faster than the atmosphere renews it.
Certain descendants of these fortunate fermenters show notable problem-solving skills: they overcome the food shortage by learning to make their own food. These planetary "primary producers" use light or chemicals to generate energy, fabricating food directly from carbon-dioxide.
Green and purple microbes evolve Earth's most important metabolic innovation: photosynthesis. These early prodigies practice specialized photosynthesis, which gives off sulfur rather than oxygen "waste." Using solar power, the microbes take hydrogen from hydrogen-sulfide gas that is spewed out of deep-sea vents and volcanoes and combine it with carbon dioxide to make their bodies.
University of Montana--Missoula. Environmental Studies Program
© 1997 Stiftung Drittes Millennium
Digital File Format
Digital Image Number
Liebes, Sid; Mittelstadt, Laurie; Waugh, Barbara; and Brynes, Lois, "Panel 14: Life's Fortunate Fermenters" (1997). A Walk Through Time - From Stardust To Us. 14.