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AP Biology: Section 3.1 & 3.

2 Questions Page 145 and 154

November 12, 2008
Sukhkaran Dhaliwal

Page 145

a. An autotroph is an organism that synthesizes food molecules from inorganic molecules by using
an external energy source, such as light energy. A heterotroph an organism that is unable to
synthesize organic compounds (and thus its energy) from the environment and therefore fulfils
its energy requirements by feeding on other organisms or organic matter. From these two
definitions, a wolf, rabbit, and piece of lettuce can be classified. The lettuce is an autotroph
because it synthesizes food molecules from light energy (sun). The wolf and rabbit are
heterotrophs because they feed on other organisms/organic matter.

b. All of these organisms rely on sunlight because it has to do with the flow of energy. All these
organisms directly or indirectly receive their energy from the sun. It all starts from the lettuce.
When there is carbon dioxide, water, and light energy (sunlight), it undergoes photosynthesis to
produce oxygen and glucose. The rabbit, which eats the lettuce gains energy from eating it.
Then the fox eats the rabbit and gets energy from the rabbit, which got energy from the lettuce.
The flow of energy decreases as it moves higher up the food chain because the previous
organism would have used some of that energy for mechanical energy and also some of the
energy would have dissipated as heat. There are directly to the two laws of thermodynamics.
Basically, if the sun was taken out the equation, the lettuce would not photosynthesize, the
rabbit population would die because they would have nothing to eat, and then the fox
population would significantly diminish/die because they would have a food source (rabbits).
Sunlight is imperative for sustaining life on Earth.

a. All photosynthetic organisms convert inorganic energy (light) into organic energy (i.e. glucose)
and contain chlorophyll.

b. In cyanobacteria, chlorophyll molecules are located in vesicles in the cytosol called mesosomes.
Infoldings of the cell membrane are used as sites of photosynthesis.

a. The Venus fly-trap and pitcher plants are both autotrophs and heterotrophs that still
photosynthesize to make carbohydrates, but they are carnivorous plants that eat organisms.

b. These plants digest animals because grow in nitrogen deficient environments so it cannot build
up its own proteins and hence relies on insect hunting (rich in proteins).

Page 154

1. 6CO2 + 12H2O + light energy C6H12O6 + 6H2O + 6O2

Sukhkaran Dhaliwal AP Biology Wednesday, November 12, 2008

a. In the figure to the right, the top graph is the absorption spectrum of chlorophyll a and the
bottom graph is the action spectrum for chlorophyll a. The absorption spectrum is the relative
tendency of a material to absorb a specific color or energy of light, typically plotted as intensity,
transmission, or optical density versus wavelength. The action spectrum is the efficiency with
which electromagnetic radiation produces a photochemical reaction plotted as a function of the
wavelength of the radiation.

b. The two spectra are similar to one another,

but they are also different. Absorption
spectrum is essentially the relative
absorption of certain wavelengths (colours)
and action spectrum is how those
wavelengths affect the rate of
photosynthesis. They are similar if a
relationship is seen from the graphs;
wavelengths that are more absorbed have a
higher effectiveness in photosynthesis than
those that do not. This is why the general
shape of each graph is similar to one

c. No, the action and absorption spectra do not

have to be the same. Though they shapes of
the graphs are similar, they are not the
same. In the absorption spectrum graph, the wavelengths between about 450 and 600 nm, have
a very low absorbance and are at relatively the same level, but on the action spectrum graph, it is
not necessarily the case. The lower point is at 550 nm. If the action and absorption spectra were
the same, then all wavelengths between 450 and 600 nm would have the same effectiveness in
photosynthesis, which is not true according the graphs. They are also not the same because
while the absorption spectrum is specific for chlorophyll a, the action spectrum takes into
account all the pigments to determine the rate of photosynthesis of them all combined.

a. Chlorophyll (a and b), xanthophylls, anthocyanins, and carotenoids are the pigments found in
green leaves.

b. Yellow-coloured pigments are visible in autumn leaves but not in summer leaves because with
the onset of cooler autumn temperatures, plants stop producing chlorophyll molecules and
disassemble those already in leaves. This causes yellow, red, and brown colours of autumn leave
so to become visible.

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Sukhkaran Dhaliwal AP Biology Wednesday, November 12, 2008

c. Photosynthetically active radiation, often abbreviated PAR, designates the spectral range of solar
light from 400 to 700 nanometers that is useful to terrestrial plants in the process of

d. If green plants absorb all the wavelengths in PAR, they appear green. This is because though all
the wavelengths from 400 to 700 nanometers are useful in the process of photosynthesis, they
are all not as equally as useful. Some wavelengths may cause a greater rate of photosynthetic
activity. Looking at the action spectrum, the wavelength about 550 nm has the lowest rate of
photosynthesis. Also on the absorption spectrum, it is evident that at 550 nm, is the least
amount of absorption. This means that if it is not absorbed, it is reflected. What is reflected is
what we see, so that means all the other colours (wavelengths) are absorbed and not reflected so
we cannot see them. Essentially, in white light, it reflects the colour green so that is what our
eyes perceive.


Absorption Spectrum of Spinach Leaf Pigments

0.6 0.58
Absorbance (%)

0.6 0.56

0.5 0.42 0.4

0.4 0.32
0.3 0.23 0.25 0.24

0.2 0.15 0.17

0.11 0.12 0.12

400 420 440 460 480 500 520 540 560 580 600 620 640 660 670 680

Wavelength (nm)

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Sukhkaran Dhaliwal AP Biology Wednesday, November 12, 2008

b. The colours violet, indigo, yellow, orange, and red would be least visible. This is because these
colour are absorbed by accessory pigments and chlorophyll.

c. The colour green is absorbed least by the pigment extract because chlorophyll does not absorb
this wavelength very much. It reflects this wavelength much more than it absorbs it, so
wavelength (colour) is reflected, that is the colour that humans see in white light.

d. The pigment most likely responsible for the peak at 670 nm is chlorophyll a.

e. There are no peaks in the range of 500 nm – 620 nm because these are the wavelengths that do
not get absorbed, but rather reflected and is the colour that we see. Chlorophyll does not absorb
the wavelengths between 500 nm and 620 nm very well.

f. The pigments primarily responsible for absorption in the range of 400 nm – 480 nm are
xanthophylls, carotenoids, chlorophyll a, and chlorophyll b.

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