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World's Oldest Color Discovered: It's 1.1 Billion Years Old And Bright Pink

Jul 11, 2018 09:51 PM EDT
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When one thinks of natural hues of the Earth, pink doesn't usually come to mind. Scientists say, however, that it's actually the world's oldest color.

Yes, the color of flamingoes, bubble gum, and Barbie is officially the earliest known hue to come to life in the planet. Of course, colors existed for as long as the Earth has been alive, but pink is the very first pigments produced by ancient living organisms that's long gone by now.

Scientists Find Billion-Year-Old Pink

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that 1.1 billion-year-old bright pink pigments have been extracted from the rocks buried deep in Africa's Sahara desert. This counts as the oldest known colors in the geological record.

Dr. Nur Gueneli of The Australian National University discovered the pigments, which were from the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, according to a news release from the university. It was part of her PhD studies, and she says that the pigments unearthed are about half a billion years older than the ones that have previously been discovered.

"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," Gueneli explains.

The team of international researchers crushed the ancient rocks into powder form in order to extract the ancient molecules from the long-dead organisms found within. In its concentrated form, the fossils actually ranged from red to purple, but it appears pink when diluted.

Ancient Microscopic Bacteria Used To Rule The World

Another important discovery that arose from the group's research was that the ocean's ecosystem 1 billion years ago was dominated by cyanobacteria. Gueneli explains that this is likely why there were no animals around at the time.

Larger organisms weren't able to thrive back then because they need to consume food that's larger than the cyanobacteria such as algae. However, there used to be an extremely limited supply of these potential food sources in the ancient marine environment.

"Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source," senior lead researcher Dr. Jochen Brocks, an associate professor from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, explains. He adds that the more complex ecosystems emerged when algae began to spread more rapidly.

Cyanobacterial oceans reportedly vanished about 650 million years ago, spurring the time of larger organisms on Earth.

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