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New research explains how some Solomon Islanders went blond.
New research out of Stanford University explains how 5-10 percent of Solomon Islanders ended up with blond hair.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the researchers presented their findings in the Journal Science. They explained, after collecting samples from 43 Solomon Islanders with blond hair, and 42 with the darkest hair, they found, "on chromosome 9, there was one spot where blonds usually had a “T” (short for the DNA chemical thymine) and dark-haired people typically had “C” (the DNA chemical cytosine)."
Co-senior author, Sean Myles, a former Stanford postdoc who is now a professor at Nova Scotia Agricultural College, told the LA Times in a statement, among the residents of the Solomon Islands, conventional wisdom was that sun exposure or heavy fish consumption could be responsible for the blond coloring.
In the group's abstract they note that naturally occurring blond hair is rare in humans, and almost exclusively occurs in Europe and Oceania. This fact lead many to believe the blond-haired Solomon Islanders were a result of their run-ins with Europeans.
"This missense mutation is predicted to affect catalytic activity of TYRP1 and causes blond hair through a recessive mode of inheritance, " says the abstract. "The mutation is at a frequency of 26 percent in the Solomon Islands, is absent outside of Oceania, represents a strong common genetic effect on a complex human phenotype, and highlights the importance of examining genetic associations worldwide."
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Meaning, the blonds did not receive their colored locks from Europe, but rather a genetic mutation from their own ancestors.
Jonathan Friedlaender, an anthropologist emeritus at Temple University, explained to Science Magazine, why the small tribes of the Solomon Islands are the perfect fit for wonderfully beautiful genetic quirks to occur. "The mutation, which has no obvious advantages, likely arose by chance in one individual and drifted to a high frequency in the Solomon Islands because the original population was small," Friedlaender said. "This whole area seems to have been populated by very small groups of people making it across these stepping-stone islands, so you do have very dramatic effects in fluctuations of gene frequency.”
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