Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Scientists discovere world’s oldest colour

Earth's oldest biological colour discovered in rocks beneath Sahara Desert World's oldest colours shed light on mystery of life on Earth
Cary Marshall | 11 July, 2018, 18:57

An global team led by researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) extracted 1.1-billion-year-old bright pink pigments from ancient rocks deep below the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, West Africa.

"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 Gueneli from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

According to a press release, researchers pulverized some of the rock to try and extract molecules from any ancient organisms trapped inside.

The color of the fossils ranges from blood red to deep purple in concentrated form, and bright pink when diluted with water. The colors are more than 500 million years older than the next oldest pigments. Grad student Nur Gueneli at Australian National University realized she found something special after mixing the powdered material with an organic solvent. New research has revealed what is thought to be the oldest known pigment created by a living creature... and it's pink.

Biogeochemist Dr. Janet Hope holds an ampoule with pink colored porphyrins. The ancient pigment found in rocks beneath the Sahara desert could be ten times older than the T-rex. The sample from the Sahara may be evidence that the cyanobacteria were the dominant lifeform on Earth over a billion years ago and caused an evolutionary bottleneck. This helps to explain why animals didn't exist at that time.

More news: Didier Deschamps credits France's effort in defence for win over Belgium

We know surprisingly little about what the Earth might have been like a billion (or more) years ago.

Considering oxygen levels started to rise around 3.4 billion years ago, that earlier find still left us with a big gap in fossil evidence of sunlight-harvesting pigments.

"Imagine you could find a fossilised dinosaur skin that still has its original colour, green or blue. that is exactly the type of discovery that we've made", Associate Prof Jochen Brocks from the Australian National University (ANU) told the BBC.

Gueneli said the study told scientists a great deal about life on earth more than a billion years ago. "[Gueneli] came running into my office and said, 'look at this, ' and she had this bright pink stuff..." Algae helped support larger life, so it's good that these researchers, who published their findings in the journal PNAS, found the dominant food source of life back then.

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