Saturday, 18 August, 2018

The world’s oldest colour discovered by Aussie scientists

Earth's oldest biological colour discovered in rocks beneath Sahara Desert World's oldest colours shed light on mystery of life on Earth
Elijah Vega | 11 July, 2018, 18:58

Scientists believe they have discovered the oldest colours in the world and they are bright pink.

The pigments they have discovered are 1.1 billion years old and are bright pink.

These pigments, according to Nur Gueneli of the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Earth Sciences, are the molecular fossils of chlorophyll, "produced by ancient photosynthetic organisms inhabiting an ancient ocean that has long since vanished".

According to a press release, researchers pulverized some of the rock to try and extract molecules from any ancient organisms trapped inside.

They are approximately 600 million years older than previous ancient pigment discoveries.

Gueneli and her ANU team led the study, with support from Geoscience Australia and researchers in the United States and Japan.

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The BBC reports that the pigment comes from the chlorophyll of fossilized cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, whose pigment molecules have survived eons in the ground.

The fossils from where the archaic bright pink was discovered appeared to have a variety of colors.

Not only does the find provide tangible evidence of ancient photosynthesis, analysis of the compounds indicates they were left behind by bacteria, which helps explain why animals took so long to show up in the evolutionary record. It is a molecule that had a biological colour more than a billion years ago and still has one today. Once there, it must be isolated from any exposure to oxygen, which spurs decay, and then the rock that holds the material has to remain in one piece for a billion years, Brocks said. "[Gueneli] came running into my office and said, 'look at this, ' and she had this bright pink stuff..."

This makes sense, given other research has found other chemical signatures that describe oceans rich with not just cyanobacteria, but purple sulfur bacteria as well. That algae provided the "burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth", he said.

Associate Professor Jochen Brocks from ANU stated that the discovery of large, active organisms within the rocks were most likely to have been restrained by larger food particles such as algae.

It was a few hundred million years until algae would begin to multiply, ultimately forming the base of a food web that would eventually fuel the evolution of larger animals, Brocks told Live Science.

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