The world’s oldest colour discovered by Aussie scientists - Kogonuso


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Jul 10, 2018

The world’s oldest colour discovered by Aussie scientists

Aussie scientists have discovered the world’s oldest colour after extracting pigment from 1.1 billion-year-old rocks buried deep beneath Africa’s Sahara Desert.

After crushing the very, very, very old rocks to a powder and analysing the molecules of ancient organisms, researchers struck gold.

Except it wasn’t gold – it was bright pink.

As we read in Luke Henriques-Gomes’ yarn for The Guardian, Australian National University’s Nur Gueneli made the thrilling discovery as a PhD student.

Lead researcher Jochen Brocks told Henriques-Gomes about the historical moment.

“I remember I heard this screaming in the lab,” he said.

“She came running into my office and said, ‘look at this,’ and she had this bright pink stuff.

“It turned out to be real pigment, 1.1 billion-years-old.”

In a press statement from Australian National University, Gueneli explained the science behind the discovery.

“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,” she said.

In their concentrated form, the pigments ranged from blood red to deep purple, going bright pink when diluted.

These pigments were extracted from marine black shales.

They were found in Mauritania in the Taoudeni Basin, a major geological formation that spans across a big chunk of west Africa.

The bright pink pigments are more than half-a-billion years older than earlier pigment discoveries.
But the research project wasn’t just about colours.

Gueneli said the study told scientists a great deal about life on earth more than a billion years ago.

“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,” she said.

Gueneli and Brocks teamed up with researchers from the US, Japan, Belgium and Geoscience Australia to detail their findings in a report, which was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal online on Monday.

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