Guess the world’s oldest colour…it’s not black or white

Biogeochemist Dr. Janet Hope holds an ampoule with pink colored porphyrins. Image credit: Australian National University.

In a recent discovery, scientist have found that the world’s oldest color known color is bright pink.

Pink, the color that dominates the worlds of fashion and design first appeared in seventeenth century in English language as a noun. In the 18th century, it was perfectly masculine for a man to wear a pink silk suit with floral embroidery. It was considered equivalent to red. By the late 19th century, however – and especially as Freud and other psychologists’ theories of childhood development caught on – parents began to differentiate their offspring’s sex earlier. As they did, some parents favoured pink for girls and blue for boys. That was the time that ‘pink’ became girly.

Researchers have now extracted the pigment from bacteria fossils preserved in rocks under the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, West Africa. An international team of researchers from Australia, Japan, the United States and Belgium has successfully extracted bright pink biological pigments from 1.1-billion-year-old marine sedimentary rocks of the Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa, according to Sci-news.

The findings hint that cyanobacteria, a bacteria that survives on sunlight, appeared 650 million years ago even before algae.  It dominated earth’s ancient oceans for millions of years.  Chlorophyll, which produces green colour, through the fossilized in cyanobacteria samples appeared to be dark red and dark purple, scientist revealed.

Nur Gueneli, of Australian National University (ANU) said, that when they pulverised (reduce to fine particles) the fossil to analyse the bacteria molecules, they found bright pink colour. Presence of pink colour suggests that ancient organism cast a pink colour to long-gone ocean.

While earth is 4.6 billion years old, animal-like creatures appeared 600 million years ago. When researchers analysed the structure the pink molecules, they found that it was produced by tiny cyanobacteria, which had been at the bottom of the food chain.

Associate Prof Jochen Brocks from ANU, said that “My first thought was just ‘wow’. I was just awestruck that these molecules can survive for such a long time. What I didn’t know was that these molecules could also solve a big scientific question.”


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