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Photosynth Res. 2011 Jan;107(1):87-101. doi: 10.1007/s11120-010-9577-1. Epub 2010 Jul 7.

The paleobiological record of photosynthesis.

Author information

  • Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, and Molecular Biology Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, 90095, USA. schopf@ess.ucla.edu


Fossil evidence of photosynthesis, documented in Precambrian sediments by microbially laminated stromatolites, cyanobacterial microscopic fossils, and carbon isotopic data consistent with the presence of Rubisco-mediated CO2-fixation, extends from the present to ~3,500 million years ago. Such data, however, do not resolve time of origin of O2-producing photoautotrophy from its anoxygenic, bacterial, evolutionary precursor. Though it is well established that Earth's ecosystem has been based on autotrophy since its very early stages, the time of origin of oxygenic photosynthesis, more than 2,450 million years ago, has yet to be established.

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