Scientists Trace 'World's Oldest Colours' From Africa

Earth's oldest biological colour discovered in rocks beneath Sahara Desert

Worldwide research led by the Australian National University (ANU) has resulted in the discovery of a 1.1-billion-year-old colour - the oldest in geological record.

A team of global scientists led by researchers from Australia found the oldest color in Earth's geological record.

'The bright pink pigments are the molecular fossils of chlorophyll that were produced by ancient photosynthetic organisms inhabiting an ancient ocean that has long since vanished, ' said Dr Gueneli from the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences, who led the study.

A mining company had found the rocks in a marine shale deposit in the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa about 10 years ago, after drilling a hole several hundred metres deep, he said. The fossils were originally green and then became blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form.

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

According to senior lead researcher Dr. Jochen Brocks, an associate professor at ANU, the limited supply of large food particles like algae in these ancient oceans likely restrained the emergence of large, active organisms.

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As we read in Luke Henriques-Gomes' yarn for The Guardian, Australian National University's Nur Gueneli made the thrilling discovery as a PhD student.

When they pulverized the fossils to analyze the bacteria molecules, the researchers distilled the colors to find a brilliant pink.

ANU scientists say the pigments are more than one billion years old.

It was previously thought that the lack of oxygen may have prevented larger creatures to thrive shortly after life started on Earth. These cyanobacteria had a great run for 500 million years or so, which is more than enough time to pull off wearing pink.

The new findings shed new light on the evolution of life on Earth. The discovery of the ancient bright pink, however, can change this narrative.

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. "Which helps to explain why animals did not exist at the time". Despite being 4.6 billion years old, an explosion of complex life on Earth didn't take place until about 650 million years ago.

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