It’s the 20th anniversary of the discovery of a microbe that produces twenty percent of the air we breathe. The Prochlorococcus is part of a group of cyanobacteria, and has become a very well-studied model marine microbe.
Some estimates claim that the oxygen in one out of every five breaths you take comes from this bacterium.
It is also one of the most abundant organisms on Earth, numbering in the trillion trillions. To produce oxygen, the Prochlorococcus performs photosynthesis, and uses the energy from the sun to release the air from a water molecule.
Listen to an interview with Penny Chishom about the microbe on NPR’s Talk of the Nation.