Earth's Oldest Color Dates Back More Than 1 Billion Years

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

World's oldest colours shed light on mystery of life on Earth

Scientists at Australian National University are in the pink thanks to a new study that identifies the world's oldest color.

Aussie scientists have discovered the world's oldest colour after extracting pigment from 1.1 billion-year-old rocks buried deep beneath Africa's Sahara Desert.

The extraction of the pigments required the billion-year-old rocks to be crushed into a powder. In concentrated form, the fossils range in color from deep blood red to a deep purple. The colors are more than 500 million years older than the next oldest pigments.

ANU PhD student, Dr Nur Gueneli, discovered the pigments after running an organic solvent through the powdered rock. When the fossils were diluted, their final form revealed the bright pink pigment in an oil form.

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

And that pigment was a fetching shade of pink. This helps to explain why animals didn't exist at that time. The discovery of the ancient bright pink, however, can change this narrative.

Earth is approximately 4 billion years old.

"Life only became bigger about 600 million years ago because before that there was no sufficient food source". Some researchers have found evidence that oxygen concentrations on Earth, most created by cyanobacteria, just weren't high enough to support life until that point, which would explain why life stayed single-cell for so long.

The new findings shed new light on the evolution of life on Earth.

The team of researchers from Australia, Japan and the US 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.

Senior lead researcher Associate Professor Jochen Brocks from The Australian National University said that the emergence of large, active organisms was likely to have been restrained by a limited supply of larger food particles, such as algae.

"Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source", 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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