The world’s oldest colors are bright pink pigments dating back over 1.1 billion years.
Scientists from Australia, Japan and the US discovered the prehistoric shades after crushing down rocks extracted from deep beneath the Sahara desert, in the Taoudeni basin in Mauritania, West Africa. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The pigments are fossilized molecules of chlorophyll produced by sea organisms, claim the researchers.
They added that these pigments taken from marine black shales are more than half-a-billion years older than previous discoveries.
The fossils range from blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form and bright pink when diluted.
“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,” said Dr. Nur Gueneli from the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Earth Sciences.
The ANU researchers crushed the billion-year-old rocks to powder, before extracting and analyzing molecules of ancient organisms from them.
“The precise analysis of the ancient pigments confirmed that tiny cyanobacteria dominated the base of the food chain in the oceans a billion years ago, which helps to explain why animals did not exist at the time,” Gueneli said.
The rocks were sent to the ANU from an oil company that was drilling for oil several hundred meters beneath the sand of the Sahara desert around a decade ago, according to The Guardian.
Associate professor Jochen Brocks said the oldest biological color could help solve a major puzzle about life – why large complex creatures appeared so late in Earth’s history.
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.