Scientists from the Australian National University were studying ancient marine shale - a type of rock that is formed from mud or sediment - when they discovered what seems to be the leftovers of some seriously old bacteria.
Worldwide research led by the Australian National University (ANU) has resulted in the discovery of a 1.1-billion-year-old colour - the oldest in geological record.
The researchers crushed the billion-year-old rocks to powder, before extracting and analysing molecules of ancient organisms from them.
The fossils range from blood red to deep purple in their concentrated form, and bright pink when diluted. Inside those teensy bacteria, the scientists found chlorophyll - a pigment used today by plants for photosynthesis - dating back to about 1.1 billion years ago.
The pigments are fossilised molecules of chlorophyll produced by sea organisms, Australian scientists said.
This handout photo taken on June 19, 2018 by the Australian National University (ANU) shows biogeochemistry lab manager Janet Hope from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences holding a vial of coloured porphyrins, a pink coloured liquid, in Canberra.
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And that pigment was a fetching shade of pink.
"Algae, although still microscopic, are a thousand times larger in volume than cyanobacteria and are a much richer food source", explained Brocks. "[Gueneli] came running into my office and said, 'look at this, ' and she had this bright pink stuff..."
But the research project wasn't just about colours.
Associate professor Jochen Brocks from ANU noted the development of large organisms was probably restrained by a lack of larger food particles.
"[It provided] the burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth", he said. In fact, the ancient oceans that were once dominated by the cyanobacterial started to disappear when algae became prevalent. The sample from the Sahara may be evidence that the cyanobacteria were the dominant lifeform on Earth over a billion years ago and caused an evolutionary bottleneck.
Earth is 4.543 billion years old, but complex life forms did not form on the planet until 600 million years ago.
It was a few hundred million years until algae would begin to multiply, ultimately forming the base of a food web that would eventually fuel the evolution of larger animals, Brocks told Live Science.