Colours sure are interesting. They let you know when to stop your car at a robot and avoid smashing into a delivery truck at an intersection, and likewise politely inform you that your kidneys have failed, and should probably find a doctor as soon as possible. That indicator would be your skin turning yellow, if you’re curious!
But what would you say if we told you that scientists had gone digging under the Sahara desert, uncovered a pile of rocks and somehow managed to locate biological colours that are really old? Not impressed? How about if we said these colours were around 1.1 billion years old? That’s a great deal older than the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex. In fact, so much so that it makes the giant lizard look like it last wandered the world last week Tuesday. More impressed now? We thought so!
The colours discovered were, in fact, pigments, locked away in stone for a staggeringly long period of time. As far as the brainy Australian scientists who discovered the colours knows, they came from ancient sea bacteria. Sadly, this is not revealing the skin colour of a dinosaur. As already said, those wondrous creatures only started appearing a great deal of time after the newly discovered fossil originated. Either way, the bacteria left behind chlorophyll, which in turn was fossilised and years later, uncovered to reveal the world’s oldest colour.
So how exactly do you go about extracting colour from a billion year old rock? Professor Jochen Brocks of the Australian National University explained that the rock was first ground into a fine powder, after which it was put through a chemical treatment. According to the smart science types at the Australian National University, the process is somewhat similar to how a filter coffee machine works. During the process the molecules were drawn out, and thus revealed their colour. A bright, neon pink.
A Colourful Discovery
It was Doctor Nur Gueneli who made the discovery, and was apparently so startled by the pink that it resulted in her uttering some rather intense screams. The ancient neon pink colours had been uncovered, and a jackpot of a different kind, other than one when playing casino games, had been struck.
But who can blame Doctor Gueneli for her reaction? That colour can survive over a billion years is no small miracle, especially when you consider that t-shirts generally start losing their colour after a year or two. It just goes to show that you can’t beat nature when looking for a real long-lasting colour.
Ten Years Of Discovery
If you’re curious about the rock in question that has changed the way we see colour, it was found ten years ago. Specifically, in Taoudeni Basin in West Africa. Several hundred meters was drilled into the earth in order to uncover the rock, making clear just how much effort is extended to make important archaeological discoveries.
According to Brock, though, it is not just the colour itself that is important. Instead, he explained that the molecules offer evidence as to how life was on earth so long ago. The world was dominated by the bacteria that left the pigments, explaining why it was not for another 200 million years that larger living creatures emerged.
So, for the most part the neon pink is a nice discovery, but the real value is in learning more about the chain of evolution, and that life was already beginning on earth so long ago. In addition, we can all still hold thumbs that one day the colour of dinosaurs’ skin can be nailed down finally.