A team of global scientists led by researchers from Australia found the oldest color in Earth's geological record.
Bright pink pigments which are 1.1 billion-year-old have been extracted from rocks deep beneath the Sahara desert in Africa by a team of scientists from The Australian National University (ANU).
It was first announced in the journal PNAS that the discovered fossils reportedly range from a dark blood red to a deep purple, when diluted these become bright pink. These pigments are more than half a billion years older than the previous pigments that were discovered. Grad student Nur Gueneli at Australian National University realized she found something special after mixing the powdered material with an organic solvent. Researchers say that these bright pink pigments are molecular fossils of chlorophyll.
The pigments found were produced by photosynthetic organisms that inhabited an ancient ocean.
"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. "Which helps to explain why animals did not exist at the time".
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We know surprisingly little about what the Earth might have been like a billion (or more) years ago. The researchers ground up the shale and were able to isolate the pigment that was present in the bacteria, noting that it shines a brilliant pink when held up to sunlight. The discovery of the ancient bright pink, however, can change this narrative. 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.
"[It provided] the burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth", he said. The analysis confirmed that tiny cyanobacteria-a type of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis-dominated the base of the food chain in Earth's early oceans, billions of years ago.
"Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source", said Brocks, who works in the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.
While our planet is 4.6 billion years old, these animal-like beasts and other large things like seaweed emerged only 600 million years ago, he told The Guardian.