The evolution of photosynthesis refers to the origin and subsequent evolution of photosynthesis, the process by which light energy is used to assemble sugars from carbon dioxide and a hydrogen and electron source such as water. The process of photosynthesis was discovered by Jan Ingenhousz, a Dutch-born British physician and scientist, first publishing about it in 1779.
The first photosynthetic organisms probably evolved early in the evolutionary history of life and most likely used reducing agents such as hydrogen rather than water. There are three major metabolic pathways by which photosynthesis is carried out: C3 photosynthesis, C4 photosynthesis, and CAM photosynthesis. C3 photosynthesis is the oldest and most common form. A C3 plant uses the Calvin cycle for the initial steps that incorporate CO2 into organic material. A C4 plant prefaces the Calvin cycle with reactions that incorporate CO2 into four-carbon compounds. A CAM plant uses crassulacean acid metabolism, an adaptation for photosynthesis in arid conditions. C4 and CAM plants have special adaptations that save water.
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