Scientists find South Sea islanders’ blonde hair didn’t come from Europeans, but evolved separately


By ROB WAUGH

PUBLISHED: 06:13 EST, 4 May 2012 UPDATED: 06:59 EST, 4 May 2012

 

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.

¿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.'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.’
¿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 IrelandIts 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

 

Much of the Solomon Islands is undeveloped, without roads, electricity or telephonesGathering 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 

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.’

Around 5-10% of the population of the Solomon Islands have blond hair - but it's due to an entirely different gene from EuropeansAround 5-10% of the population of the Solomon Islands have blond hair – but it’s due to an entirely different gene from Europeans
The Solomon IslandsThe Solomon Islands: 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 

Myles and Timpson went village to village explaining what they wanted to do and asking for permission to gather data, Myles speaking in Solomon Islands pidgin, the most widely understood language.

When the local chief gave the OK, the researchers recruited participants and assessed hair and skin color using a light reflectance meter, took blood pressure readings and measured heights and weights.

They asked the villagers to spit into small tubes to provide saliva to be used for DNA extraction. In the span of a month they collected more than 1,000 samples.

Soon after, Kenny joined the lab and started the analysis, selecting 43 blond- and 42 dark-haired Solomon Islanders from the opposite 10 percent extremes of the hair pigmentation range.

She used these in a genome-wide association study, a method to reveal differences in the frequency of genetic variants between two groups, that usually requires thousands of samples.

Because the vast majority of human physical characteristics analyzed to date have many genetic and environmental factors, Kenny expected an inconclusive result that would require much further study. Instead, she immediately saw a single strong signal on chromosome 9, which accounted for 50 percent of the variance in the Solomon Islanders’ hair color.

The team went on to identify the gene responsible, TYRP1, which encodes tyrosinase-related protein 1, an enzyme previously recognized as influencing pigmentation in mice and humans. Further research revealed that the particular variant responsible for blond hair in the Solomon Islands is absent in the genomes of Europeans.

‘So the human characteristic of blond hair arose independently in equatorial Oceania. That’s quite unexpected and fascinating,’ Kenny said.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2139462/Blond.html


6 thoughts on “Scientists find South Sea islanders’ blonde hair didn’t come from Europeans, but evolved separately

  • February 17, 2014 at 9:02 am
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    Well anyway this article is about finding out why their hair is blonde, finding a reason other than it being from Europeans, its interesting because it opens our eyes to something new, I’m not sure how this article has sparked the racism some of you have. And before I get anyone judging the color of my skin saying Im only saying it because Im white, Im actually Puerto Rican.

    Reply
  • February 17, 2014 at 4:58 pm
    Permalink

    Jillian- you are the only comment. (besides this one) So no, nothing was sparked and no, no one has tried to guess your ethnicity (no one cares). For the record, racism is practiced in people of every color (so yea, you can be both racist AND Hispanic).

    Reply
    • February 18, 2014 at 9:00 am
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      Actually Frankie, Im not sure if you actually read the thread otherwise you will see that in fact almost all the post are making it about race, and I seen some peoples comments not get any credit because theyre being told they only say that because theyre white so that’s where Im coming from. Youre comment is completely false and irrelevant to what Im talking about. But if you would like to discuss what my comment was actually about which is how interesting this article Id be more than happy to entertain that otherwise if youre just going to bash my post I really have nothing else to say. And btw thanks for knowledge if you had not told me I would’ve gone on thinking its impossible for a Hispanic to be racist -_-

      Reply
    • February 18, 2014 at 9:14 am
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      Oh and Im actually a really nice person so Ill give you the benefit of the doubt and it sounds to me like maybe my comment was the only one you could see therefore you thought my post was ridiculous since it was the only one? maybe that’s what happened? Well I hope that’s what happened because like I said to hundreds of post before mine are about race maybe one or two about the actual article. But as I said I would gladly discuss the article if not have a great day and a great life and god bless 🙂

      Reply
  • February 18, 2014 at 8:58 am
    Permalink

    Actually Frankie, Im not sure if actually read the thread otherwise you will see that in fact almost all the post are making it about race, and I seen some peoples comments not get any credit because theyre being told they only say that because theyre white so that’s where Im coming from. Youre comment is completely false and irrelevant to what Im talking about. But if you would like to discuss what my comment was actually about which is how interesting this article Id be more than happy to entertain that otherwise if youre just going to bash my post I really have nothing else to say.

    Reply
  • November 19, 2014 at 6:03 am
    Permalink

    Please! Someone with the right! WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN. information on this whole subject would be nice, instead of all the back and forth talk!

    Reply

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