Scientists discovere world’s oldest colour

The colour. Image ANU

The colour. Image ANU

Bright pink pigments which are 1.1 billion-year-old have been extracted from rocks deep beneath the Sahara desert in Africa by a team of scientists from The Australian National University (ANU). In concentrated form, the fossils range in color from deep blood red to a deep purple.

When diluted, the pigments appear a light pink.

Scientists were able to extract the pigment molecules from the ancient rocks after grinding the basalts into a powder.

The pigments, which were found in a marine black shale deposit, are more than 500 million years older than any previously known pigments, said Nur Gueneli, lead author of the study from ANU's Research School of Earth Sciences.

Science says the oldest colour in the world is bright pink.

"It turned out to be real pigment, 1.1 billion-years-old".

The pigments found were produced by photosynthetic organisms that inhabited an ancient ocean.

The discovery of the ancient bright pink pigment could offer new insights into why it took 4 billion years before the first animal life evolved on Earth. This meant that all organisms at the time were feeding on the cyanobacteria.

"The precise analysis of the ancient pigments confirmed that tiny cyanobacteria dominated the base of the food chain in the oceans a billion years ago", Gueneli said in a statement. Once there, it must be isolated from any exposure to oxygen, which spurs decay, and then the rock that holds the material has to remain in one piece for a billion years, Brocks said.

"She came running into my office and said, 'look at this, ' and she had this bright pink stuff".

Researchers believe that the emergence of large, active organisms was restrained by the limited supply of larger food particles like algae. "Which helps to explain why animals did not exist at the time".

"Algae, although still microscopic, are 1000 times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source", Dr Brocks said.

"The cyanobacterial oceans started to vanish about 650 million years ago, when algae began to rapidly spread to provide the burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth".

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