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Mysterious Origin Of Blond Hair On Dark Skin Revealed

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Situated in the south-west Pacific, about 1800 km north-east of Australia, are Solomon Islands. Most of the inhabitants of this island country are dark-skinned people called Melanesians. One of the intriguing features of these people is the naturally bright blond hair, which about 10 percent of them sport. Surprised at the co-existence of blond hair with dark skin?

Read on to know the reason for the islanders' blond locks...

Well, a number of hypotheses like bleaching by sun and saltwater, a diet rich in fish, and the genetic legacy of Europeans or Americans have been considered for the origins of their blond hair. But a new study has found that the naturally blond hair in Solomon Islanders is due to variant of a native gene called TYRP1 that plays an important role in the melanin biosynthetic pathway.

The findings were arrived at after analyzing the genetic makeup of 43 blond and 42 dark-haired Melanesians.

Note that the variant of TYRP1 gene is distinctly different from the gene that causes blond hair in Europeans. This variant is not present in the Europeans.

Given the fact that the particular variant responsible for blond hair in the Solomon Islands is absent in the genomes of Europeans, the study author Sean Myles, a geneticist at Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, Canada, said, "It's a great example of convergent evolution, where the same outcome is brought about by completely different means."

The research was co-led by Dr Nic Timpson from the Medical Research Council Center for Causal Analyses in Translational Epidemiology at the University of Bristol and researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study is published May 4 in the journal Science.

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