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non-photorespiratory condition

Imagine a pea plant. If that pea plant is forming new pods, it requires a large amount of sugar energy to grow larger. This is similar to how you eat food to grow taller and stronger. But rather than going to the store and buying groceries, the pea plant will use sunlight to obtain the energy to build sugar. When the pea pods are fully grown, the plant may no longer need as much sugar and will store it in its cells. A hungry rabbit comes along and decides to eat some of the plant, which provides the energy that allows the rabbit to hop back to its home. Where did the rabbit’s energy come from? Consider the process of photosynthesis. With the help of carbon dioxide and water, the pea pod used the energy from sunlight to construct the sugar molecules. When the rabbit ate the pea pod, it indirectly received energy from sunlight, which was stored in the sugar molecules in the plant. 

Collage of bread and wheat

We can thank photosynthesis for bread! Wheat grains, like the ones pictured, are grown in huge fields. When they are harvested, they are ground into a powder that we might recognize as flour. CREDIT: Elena Schweitzer/

Humans, other animals, fungi, and some microorganisms cannot make food in their own bodies like autotrophs, but they still rely on photosynthesis. Through the transfer of energy from the Sun to plants, plants build sugars that humans consume to drive our daily activities. Even when we eat things like chicken or fish, we are transferring energy from the Sun into our bodies because, at some point, one organism consumed a photosynthetic organism (e.g., the fish ate algae). So the next time you grab a snack to replenish your energy, thank the Sun for it!