This is the world’s oldest colour

The colour. Image ANU

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

Scientists from the Australian National University were studying ancient marine shale - a type of rock that is formed from mud or sediment - when they discovered what seems to be the leftovers of some seriously old bacteria.

An global team of researchers from Australia, Japan, the United States and Belgium has successfully extracted bright pink biological pigments from 1.1-billion-year-old marine sedimentary rocks of the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa.

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

In the 1960s there were reports of similar fossils uncovered from rocks up to several billion years old, but these days they've generally been dismissed as unreliable.

The researchers crushed the billion-year-old rocks to powder, before extracting and analysing molecules of ancient organisms from them.

That chlorophyll was produced by ancient photosynthetic organisms that inhabited an ancient ocean that vanished eons ago.

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You can read all about the findings in their study here.

What these researchers have found is the oldest physical colour - a biological pigment.

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.

"I remember I heard this screaming in the lab", Jochen Brocks, senior author on the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tells Henriques-Gomes.

In 1993, shale deposited some time during the Cambrian around half a billion years ago was considered the oldest example of molecular building blocks of chlorophyll called porphyrins. The discovery of the ancient bright pink, however, can change this narrative.

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

It was previously thought that the lack of oxygen may have prevented larger creatures to thrive shortly after life started on Earth. Brocks believes oceans dominated by cyanobacteria may be the culprit. The pink was created by cyanobacteria, which was a dominant presence on earth before algae took over 650 million years ago.

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