Ever since life’s debut on the earth, biotic evolution has been a near-balancing act. On virtually every level, competition and cooperation, shifting endlessly between foreground and background, have tugged and teased evolving systems as they have wobbled through time along the edge of chaos. The emergence of cellular life from the world of complex carbon-based chemistry appears to have happened only once in the primordial dreamtime of planet Earth. Scientists base this conjecture on a number of virtually universal distributions of chemical structures and processes across the spectrum of living organisms. Despite their perhaps tenuous hold on life, the earliest cells, primitive bacteria and archea, possessed the keys to the opening of new potential for matter and energy—the capabilities of self-replication, controlled energy transduction, directed locomotion, and the regulation of an internal environment. Out of this cellular Big Bang there arose a totally new force field on planet Earth superimposed over the physical, chemical, and geological, but with tendrils pervading all of those realms. It was the beginning of the biosphere. Life pervaded and began to transform the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The chapter highlights transitions of prokaryote to eukaryote via endosymbiosis. Also featured are: biofilms, bioluminescence, coral reefs, and ecological succession.
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