2

If one starts the miner on geth when running in dev mode Ether is credited to the designated address (coinbase per default) but what work is done to merit the reward? I did not post any transactions.

3

The miner still processes blocks and solves Proof of Work problems, just like on the main chain. The only difference is that the test chain has a different genesis block, and test ether is pretty much worthless.

You do not have to send any transactions to mine, and blocks can be empty, so the chain will continue growing even if every block of empty

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