Marine Phototrophs in the Twilight Zone

  • Noga Stambler
  • Zvy Dubinsky
Part of the Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology book series (COLE, volume 11)

Phototrophs (photolithoautotrophs) are organisms that use light as their energy source to synthesize organic compounds. These organisms include some bacteria, cyanobacteria, algae, and plants. They harvest light by various pigments, the main of these being chlorophylls, and its energy is transferred to the photosynthetic reaction centers. Even though phototrophs depend on light for their survival, some of these grow under very low light.

In general, the terrestrial light flux, even under the most intense sunlight is too low for single chlorophyll molecules to sustain photosynthesis, since the arrival of photons would be so slow that the S states (Kok et al., 1970, Falkowski and Raven, 1997) would decay spontaneously, not allowing generation of oxygen or carbon reduction. In reality, light is harvested in the photosynthetic apparatus by “antennae,” consisting of hundreds of pigment molecules embedded in the thylakoids or similar membranes. The antennae have a far larger cross section,σ, or probability of intercepting a photon than single pigment molecules. The energy intercepted by the antennae migrates as excitation energy to the few chlorophyll molecules in the photosynthetic reaction centers.


Coral Reef Particulate Organic Carbon Coralline Alga Coral Skeleton Green Sulfur Bacterium 
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© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noga Stambler
    • 1
  • Zvy Dubinsky
    • 1
  1. 1.The Mina & Everard Goodman Faculty of Life SciencesBar-Ilan UniversityIsrael

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