Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Scientists Discover Oldest Color

Scientists Discover Oldest Color

Scientists from the Australian National University were studying ancient marine shale - a type of rock that is formed from mud or sediment - when they discovered what seems to be the leftovers of some seriously old bacteria.

An worldwide team of scientists discovered the oldest color in the geological record in rocks beneath the Sahara desert: the bright pink pigment aged 1.1 billion years old.

Except it wasn't gold - it was bright pink. These pigments are more than half a billion years older than the previous pigments that were discovered.

The extraction of the pigments required the billion-year-old rocks to be crushed into a powder.

The pigments are fossilized molecules of chlorophyll produced by sea organisms, claim the researchers.

You can read all about the findings in their study here.

The colour was found in pigments extracted from rocks deep beneath the Sahara desert.

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The team of researchers from Australia, Japan and the United States of America also were able to use the pigments to confirm that ancient marine ecosystems were dominated by tiny cyanobacteria, a type of bacteria that obtains energy through photosynthesis. In concentrated form, the fossils range in color from deep blood red to a deep purple. These cyanobacteria had a great run for 500 million years or so, which is more than enough time to pull off wearing pink.

Not only does the find provide tangible evidence of ancient photosynthesis, analysis of the compounds indicates they were left behind by bacteria, which helps explain why animals took so long to show up in the evolutionary record. Dinosaurs appeared 235 million years ago and were wiped out just 65 million years ago.

Senior lead researcher Jochen Brocks, a professor at ANU, explained that the emergence of large, active organisms was likely restrained by a limited supply of larger food particles, such as algae. The discovery of the ancient bright pink, however, can change this narrative.

Her reaction to seeing colors produced by organisms that lived more than a billion years ago?

It was a few hundred million years until algae would begin to multiply, ultimately forming the base of a food web that would eventually fuel the evolution of larger animals, Brocks told Live Science. Brocks believes oceans dominated by cyanobacteria may be the culprit.

Earth is 4.543 billion years old, but complex life forms did not form on the planet until 600 million years ago.

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