Scientists discover world’s oldest colours from Sahara desert

An international group of scientists discovered the oldest colour in the geological record in rocks beneath the Sahara desert: the bright pink pigment aged 1.1 billion years old.
Nur Gueneli, from The Australian National University, said the ancient pigment was extracted from marine black shales of the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa. The bright pink colour is believed to be more than half a billion years older than other prehistoric pigments.
The fossils from where the archaic bright pink was discovered appeared to have a variety of colours. The fossils were originally green and then became blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form. When the fossils were diluted, their final form revealed the bright pink pigment in an oil form.
Upon analysis, Gueneli said the ancient pigment resulted from molecular fossils of chlorophyll that were processed by ancient photosynthetic organisms that once ruled the oceans. To give context, the molecular fossils the team found were 10 times older than a Tyrannosaurus rex would have been.
The discovery of the ancient bright pink pigment could offer new insights into why it took 4 billion years before the first animal life evolved on Earth.
For the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 9, Gueneli and her team pulverised the billion-year-old rocks they found beneath the Sahara desert. The team then extracted and analysed the rocks’ powdered form.
Their analysis revealed that the rocks contained molecules of ancient organisms known as the cyanobacteria. Gueneli explained these microorganisms once dominated the base of the food chain in the oceans a billion years ago. This meant that all organisms at the time were feeding on the cyanobacteria.
The size of the cyanobacteria, however, was so minute that they were not sufficient for larger organisms such as animals.
Indeed, animal life appeared on Earth at a much later time.
Earth is approximately 4 billion years old. More sophisticated life forms, however, began appearing 600 million years ago.