Many questions in science remain unanswered. Luckily the question that has intrigued some of the greatest minds to ever live has been answered. The oldest known color is produced by a living organism. The color is over one billion years old, and colored bright pink. Researchers discovered the color in cyanobacteria fossils preserved in rocks in the Sahara Desert. When scientists extracted pigment from the bacteria, they found dark red and deep purple spots in concentrated form. Distilled, it turned bright pink.
In an interview with LiveScience this was mentioned:
“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,” explained Dr. Gueneli, a researcher from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. It’s likely that the bacteria dominated ancient oceans for hundreds of millions of years, perhaps casting a pink tint to the ocean itself. The pink-producing cyanobacteria are so old that even algae, one of the oldest forms of life on earth, was rarely found. “This was truly an alien world,” study co-author Jochen Brocks told LiveScience.
A few hundred million years later, algae would start to multiply, and start to form the beginning of a food web that would eventually lead to the evolution of animals. Until then, pink cyanobacteria ruled the oceans.
It took a very lucky series of events to preserve the chlorophyll: after dead organic matter sunk to the seafloor, it had to settle in a spot where it remains isolated from exposure to oxygen. Not only that, but the rock that preserved in had to survive a billion years in one piece.