Aquatic CAM photosynthesis: a brief history of its discovery

Aquatic Botany



Aquatic CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) photosynthesis was discovered while investigating an unrelated biochemical pathway concerned with anaerobic metabolism. George Bowes was a significant contributor to this project early in its infancy. Not only did he provide me with some valuable perspectives on peer review rejections, but by working with his gas exchange system I was able to take our initial observations of diel fluctuations in malic acid to the next level, showing this aquatic plant exhibited dark CO2 uptake. CAM is universal in all aquatic species of the worldwide Lycophyta genus Isoetes and non-existent in terrestrial Isoetes. Outside of this genus aquatic CAM has a limited occurrence in three other families, including the Crassulaceae. This discovery led to fascinating adventures in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes in search of Stylites, a terrestrial relative of Isoetes. Stylites is a plant that is hermetically sealed from the atmosphere and obtains all of its carbon from terrestrial sources and recycles carbon through CAM. Considering the Mesozoic origin of Isoetes in shallow pools, coupled with the fact that aquatic Isoetes universally possess CAM, suggests the earliest evolution of CAM photosynthesis was most likely not in terrestrial plants.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Aquatic CAM photosynthesis: a brief history of its discovery
Series title Aquatic Botany
DOI 10.1016/j.aquabot.2014.05.010
Volume 118
Issue Special Issue
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Elsevier Scientific Pub. Co.
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 7 p.
First page 38
Last page 44
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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