TIL: 20% of Our Oxygen Comes From a Bacteria

When you think of bacteria, you might think of the flu, your kindergartner, or the TV remote, but you probably don’t think of oxygen. Get this: Bacteria provide oxygen for about one in five of your breaths. Without these microbes, you, your family, and most importantly the TV remote wouldn’t exist!

These minuscule ocean-dwelling oxygen makers are Prochlorococcus (try saying that three times fast). These little guys are special because they contain chlorophyll, the compound that allows for photosynthesis. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in science class, photosynthesis is a process that converts light energy from the sun into fuel for an organism. A by-product of this activity is oxygen.

Prochlorococcus is believed to be the most abundant photosynthetic creature on the planet and may provide as much as 20 percent of the oxygen you breathe. In this week’s "Today I Learned," oceanographer and Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle introduces us to these microscopic bacteria.