Bright pink is officially the world’s oldest color.

After extracting rocks deep within the African Sahara desert, scientists discovered the world’s oldest colors in the geological record.

Previous pigment findings are half a billion years younger than the new discoveries found by The Australian National University (ANU). The molecular remains date back prior to the emergence of animals.

ANU faculty member Dr. Nur Gueneli believes that the pigments were taken from Taoudeni Basin in Mauritania, West Africa’s marine black shales.

“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,” Dr. Gueneli said.

In the fossils’ concentrated form, their colors range from blood red to deep purple and turn pink when diluted.

Crushing the billion-year-old rocks to powder before extracting the molecules, the researchers analyzed the ancient organisms.

“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,” Dr. Gueneli said.

Associate Professor and senior lead researcher from The Australian National University, Jochen Brocks, says that the appearance of large, organisms was likely to have been constrained by a finite amount of particles, such as algae.

“Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria, and are a much richer food source,” says Brocks, “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.”

This discovery offers people a glimpse of how things might have been before human existence. It gives us more of an explanation as to why our large, complex organismal ancestors appeared so much later in earth’s history.

Featured Image via Flickr / Kate Williams

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