Biology KS3/4: Bacteria and the development of an oxygen rich atmosphere

Professor Brian Cox explains how the Earth developed an oxygen rich atmosphere.

The secret lies with an ancient group of organisms called cyanobacteria.

Around 2.4 billion years ago, these bacteria evolved an incredible ability to produce their own food using photosynthetic pigments.

A by-product of this process was oxygen, and the success of these pioneering organisms filled the atmosphere with oxygen.

This transformed our planet and allowed the development of more complex life, like plants and animals.

This clip is from the series Wonders of Life.

Teacher Notes

This clip could be used as a stimulus to discuss how the Earth's early atmosphere changed.

Students could discuss the conditions that must have been present for the bacteria to begin the process of photosynthesis.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Biology at KS3 and KS4/GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and SQA National 3/4/5 in Scotland.

More from Wonders of Life:

Conservation of energy
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How has life on Earth become so varied?
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Lemurs: Evolution and adaptation
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Jellyfish and photosynthesis
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The arrival of water on Earth
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The origins of life on Earth
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Evolution of hearing
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Evolution of sight
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Evolution of the senses
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Gravity, size and mass
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Size and heat
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