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World's 'oldest coloured molecules' are bright pink

10 July 2018

This colorful remnant suggests that ancient sunlight-eating organisms cast a pink tint to a long-gone ocean, lead study author Nur Gueneli, of the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU), said in a statement.

The pigments range from blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form, but are bright pink when diluted.

Except it wasn't gold - it was bright pink.

The rocks were crushed in powder before extracting molecules from them with organic solvents to produce oil.

Well, not exactly, but it is the world's oldest-known color, according to new research. These pigments are more than half a billion years older than the previous pigments that were discovered.

The pigments found were produced by photosynthetic organisms that inhabited an ancient ocean.

Researchers described their discovery of ancient pigments in the journal PNAS. This meant that all organisms at the time were feeding on the cyanobacteria. Gueneli explained these microorganisms once dominated the base of the food chain in the oceans a billion years ago.

"Life only became bigger about 600 million years ago because before that there was no sufficient food source". 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.

"At first I thought it had been contaminated". The discovery of the ancient bright pink, however, can change this narrative.

"Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source", Brocks told AFP. Even algae, one of the most ancient forms of life, was absent or scarce at the time of these chlorophyll-swallowing bacteria, the researchers wrote in the study.

"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", explained Brocks.

World's 'oldest coloured molecules' are bright pink