World’s Oldest Color Discovered In Rocks Deep Beneath Sahara Desert

The colour. Image ANU

The colour. Image ANU

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 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.

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).

The extraction of the pigments required the billion-year-old rocks to be crushed into a powder.

The molecular fossils were originally green, but range from blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form, and are bright pink when diluted.

He said this explained why Earth, which was about 4.6 billion years old, had only been home to larger, animal-like creatures for about the last 600 million years.

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The pigments found were produced by photosynthetic organisms that inhabited an ancient ocean.

Biogeochemist Dr. Janet Hope holds an ampoule with pink colored porphyrins.

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

"She came running into my office and said, 'look at this, ' and she had this bright pink stuff". 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.

According to senior lead researcher Dr. Jochen Brocks, an associate professor at ANU, the limited supply of large food particles like algae in these ancient oceans likely restrained the emergence of large, active organisms. In fact, the ancient oceans that were once dominated by the cyanobacterial started to disappear when algae became prevalent.

Their findings hint that cyanobacteria, bacteria that survive on sunlight, appeared much earlier than algae, which have been traced to around 650 million years ago. 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. In comparison, the microscopic algae are a thousand times larger in volume than the cyanobacteria.

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