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Scientists date prehistoric bacterial invasions still present in today’s cells

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Long before Earth became lush, when life consisted of single-celled organisms afloat in a planet-wide sea, bacteria invaded the ancient ancestors of plants and animals and took up permanent residence. One bacterium eventually became the mitochondria that today power all plant and animal cells; another became the chloroplast that turns sunlight into energy in green plants.

A new analysis by two University of California, Berkeley, graduate students more precisely pinpoints when these life-changing invasions occurred, placing the origin of photosynthesis in plants hundreds of millions of years earlier than once thought.

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