Biological complexity: photosynthesis & green plant color (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, July 31, 2020, 21:00 (13 days ago) @ David Turell

This range of the light spectrum is a oer energy form to protect the delicate process:

"Why green, and not blue or magenta or gray? The simple answer is that although plants absorb almost all the photons in the red and blue regions of the light spectrum, they absorb only about 90% of the green photons. If they absorbed more, they would look black to our eyes. Plants are green because the small amount of light they reflect is that color.

"But that seems unsatisfyingly wasteful because most of the energy that the sun radiates is in the green part of the spectrum. When pressed to explain further, biologists have sometimes suggested that the green light might be too powerful for plants to use without harm, but the reason why hasn’t been clear.


"Their findings point to an evolutionary principle governing light-harvesting organisms that might apply throughout the universe. They also offer a lesson that — at least sometimes — evolution cares less about making biological systems efficient than about keeping them stable.


"The first step of photosynthesis happens in a light-harvesting complex, a mesh of proteins in which pigments are embedded, forming an antenna. The pigments — chlorophylls, in green plants — absorb light and transfer the energy to a reaction center, where the production of chemical energy for the cell’s use is initiated. The efficiency of this quantum mechanical first stage of photosynthesis is nearly perfect — almost all the absorbed light is converted into electrons the system can use.


"For the cell, a steady input of electrical energy coupled to a steady output of chemical energy is best: Too few electrons reaching the reaction center can cause an energy failure, while “too much energy will cause free radicals and all sorts of overcharging effects” that damage tissues, Gabor said.


"The best light for the pigments to absorb, then, was in the steepest parts of the intensity curve for the solar spectrum — the red and blue parts of the spectrum.

"The model’s predictions matched the absorption peaks of chlorophyll a and b, which green plants use to harvest red and blue light. It appears that the photosynthesis machinery evolved not for maximum efficiency but rather for an optimally smooth and reliable output.

"Cogdell wasn’t fully convinced at first that this approach would hold up for other photosynthetic organisms, such as the purple bacteria and green sulfur bacteria that live underwater and are named for the colors their pigments reflect. Applying the model to the sunlight available where those bacteria live, the researchers predicted what the optimal absorption peaks should be. Once again, their predictions matched the activity of the cells’ pigments.

“'When I realized how fundamental this was, I found myself looking in the mirror and thinking: How could I be so dumb not to think about this before?” Cogdell said."

Comment: This system protects against damage. How did it develop stepwise? Not likely as damage would have stopped the plants from evolving. Had to be designed to make any sense.

Complete thread:

 RSS Feed of thread

powered by my little forum