Friday, December 20, 2013

Blonde Hair is a Black Thing

 

 

Scientists find South Sea islanders' blond hair didn't come from Europeans, but evolved separately


The inhabitants of the Solomon Islands - east of Papua New Guinea - are very dark-skinned - but have puzzled scientists for decades with their blond hair.
Now a genetic study has found that the islanders have a 'homegrown' gene that gives them blond hair - and it's different from the one in Europeans.
‘Its frequency is between 5 and 10 percent across the Solomon Islands, which is about the same as where I'm from,’ said study author Eimear Kenny, PhD, who was born in Ireland.
The inhabitants of the Solomon Islands - east of Papua New Guinea - are very dark-skinned - but have puzzled scientists for decades with their blond hair.
Now a genetic study has found that the islanders have a 'homegrown' gene that gives them blond hair - and it's different from the one in Europeans.
‘Its frequency is between 5 and 10 percent across the Solomon Islands, which is about the same as where I'm from,’ said study author Eimear Kenny, PhD, who was born in Ireland.

Globally, blond hair is rare, occurring with substantial frequency only in northern Europe and in Oceania, which includes the Solomon Islands and its neighbors.
Many assumed the blond hair of Melanesia was the result of gene flow — a trait passed on by European explorers, traders and others who visited in the preceding centuries.
The islanders themselves give several possible explanations for its presence - they generally chalked it up to sun exposure, or a diet rich in fish, say the researchers.
‘Within a week we had our initial result. It was such a striking signal pointing to a single gene — a result you could hang your hat on. That rarely happens in science,’ said Kenny.
'It was one of the best experiences of my career.’
In terms of genetic studies, the analysis was straightforward, said Kenny.
But gathering the data, accomplished in 2009 by Myles and co-first author Nicholas Timpson, PhD, was more difficult.

Much of the Solomon Islands is undeveloped, without roads, electricity or telephones.
It's also one of the most linguistically diverse nations in the world, with dozens of languages spoken.

‘They have this very dark skin and bright blond hair. It was mind-blowing,’ said Myles.
‘As a geneticist on the beach watching the kids playing, you count up the frequency of kids with blond hair, and say, 'Wow, it's 5 to 10 percent.'

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