New study identifies Earth’s earliest color

A new study conducted by a team of researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) has revealed the earliest color in the Earth. The study has found pigments of bright pink color dating back to some 1.1 billion years ago. These pigments were reportedly extracted from the rocks underneath Africa’s Sahara desert.

Dr. Nur Gueneli at the Australian National University stated that the pigments that were obtained from the oceanic black shales at the Taoudeni Basin at Mauritania in West Africa, proved to be around ½ billion years older in comparison to the pigments that were discovered earlier.

Dr. Gueneli of the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, said in a statement, “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.”

According to the study, the fossils exhibited a “blood red to deep purple” color when in the concentrated state and showed a bright pink color when in the diluted state.

As a part of this study, the researchers first crushed the billions of years old rocks to a powder form and then extracted and scrutinized the molecules of early creatures from them. Dr. Gueneli said, “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.”

The senior head researcher of the study and Associate Professor at ANU, Jochen Brocks explained that the evolution of big, active creatures could have been subdued by a finite supply of bigger food particles like that of algae.

Brocks stated, “Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source.” Further, the researcher added, “The cyanobacterial oceans started to vanish about 650 million years ago when algae began to rapidly spread to provide the burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth.”

All the findings of this new study have been published in the PNAS journal. The study was led by ANU with assistance from Geoscience Australia as well as from researchers in Japan and the United States.

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