Scientists Stumble On World’s Oldest Colours Hidden In Africa

The rocks of the Taoudeni Basin, in Mauritania, hid a secret of 1.1 billion years: the oldest colors in the world.

Australian National University biogeochemistry lab manager Janet Hope holds a vial of pink-coloured porphyrins representing the oldest intact pigments in the world. Photo | Australian National University

These are pink pigments that, according to scientists at the National University of Australia, range from blood red to dark purple and that diluted give off an intense pink color.

Dr. Nur Gueneli, who found the discovery during his PhD studies, explains that these are molecular fossils of chlorophyll produced by photosynthetic organisms that lived in an extinct ocean.

In addition to the interest in observing the oldest color on Earth, the study sheds light on the history of evolution.

The analysis of the discovered pigments confirms that billions of years ago the cyanobacteria, organisms capable of performing oxygenic photosynthesis, dominated the base of the food chain, which could explain why complex life took so long.

These bacteria did not provide the nutrients necessary for the development of large marine creatures, which had to wait for the development of algae to have a source of energy rich in nutrients.

Although the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, creatures with an animal appearance emerged 650 million years ago, when the oceans of cyanobacteria began to become extinct.

The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.



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