Scientists Discover the Oldest Color in the World

ANU’s biogeochemistry lab manager Janet Hope has a vial containing the world’s oldest intact pigments.

The color of gum, flamingos and cotton candy – bright pink – is the oldest color in the world, according to a recent study.

Researchers discovered the ancient pink pigments in 1.1 billion-year-old rocks far below the Sahara Desert in the Taoudeni Basin of Mauritania, West Africa, making them the oldest colors in the geological record.

According to Dr. Nur Gueneli, who discovered pigments as part of her doctoral studies at the Australian National University, bright pink colors are more than 500 million years older than the oldest known pigments and were produced by ancient organisms. oceanic.

“The bright pink pigments are the molecular fossils of chlorophyll that were produced by ancient photosynthetic organisms inhabiting an ancient ocean that is long gone,” Dr. Gueneli said in a Press release .

To discover the pigments, the researchers crushed billion-year-old rocks into dust, and extracted and analyzed the molecules of ancient organisms within them.

When diluted, old pigments appear bright pink. But when concentrated, fossils can range from blood red to deep purple, he said.

Implications for ancient life

Oldest color in the world

The oldest color on Earth was not the only discovery that came out of the marine shales found deep in the Sahara.

The team of researchers from Australia, Japan and the US were also able to use the pigments to confirm that ancient marine ecosystems were dominated by tiny cyanobacteria, a type of bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis. The discovery, published in a new study , tells us more about the evolution of ancient animals.

“Accurate analysis of ancient pigments confirmed that tiny cyanobacteria dominated the base of the food chain in the oceans a billion years ago, helping to explain why animals did not exist at the time,” Dr. Gueneli said in the press release.

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

“Algae, while still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source,” Dr. Brocks said in the statement.

The cyanobacterial oceans began to disappear about 650 million years ago, Brock said, which is when the algae began to spread rapidly. That algae provided the “burst of energy necessary for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth,” he said.

Leave a Comment