Scientists discover world's oldest colors

James Marshall
July 11, 2018

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

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

The team of researchers discovered bright pink pigment in rocks taken from deep beneath the Sahara in Africa.

The fossils from where the archaic bright pink was discovered appeared to have a variety of colors.

Nur Gueneli, from The Australian National University, said the ancient pigment was extracted from marine black shales of the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa.

It is more than 500 million years older than previous pigment discoveries.

The pigments are fossilised molecules of chlorophyll produced by sea organisms, Australian scientists said.

You can read all about the findings in their study here. The ancient pigment found in rocks beneath the Sahara desert could be ten times older than the T-rex.

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.

The molecular fossils range from blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form, and bright pink when diluted. "Which helps to explain why animals did not exist at the time".

That means nothing was swimming around, chomping down on morsels of sunbaking cyanobacteria. 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.

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. Well, not exactly, but it is the world's oldest-known color, according to new research.

"I heard her screaming in the lab when it came out, and she ran into my office", Asst Prof Brocks said.

Gueneli said the study told scientists a great deal about life on earth more than a billion years ago. Cyanobacterial oceans are believed to have begun to vanish about 650 million years ago. While algae is microscopic, it is many thousands of times larger than cyanobacteria making for a much richer food source.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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