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August 09, 2003

How Goldie Locks came about

Fascinating review in Human Nature by Peter Frost of a book titled Desolate Landscapes: Ice-Age Settlement in Eastern Europe. The article explores the question of why Europeans have such a diverse range in terms of eye and hair color, the answer being framed in terms of sexual selection for "rare phenotypes" (this has been observed in laboratory conditions with fruit flies, and Frost points to other cases). But I lean to the idea that the features selected for were paedomorphic, child-like, so neoteny was a driving factor. Please be sure to check out note 2 which details the genes that lead to the unique features that characterize many northern Europeans [1]. (via Steve Sailer)

[1] Obviously light-eyes and blonde hair are traits that are found in populations outside of northern Europe in a cline that pushes into south to north Africa and east into western China, but this is probably the result of genetic exchange with northern Europeans or their root population in eastern Europe/western northern Asia (though this could be quite deep in time, and not within historical memory-ie; no need for recourse to Vandals to explain Berber blondness). Additionally, hair color diversity probably spikes up again once you reach Australia, where blondism is noted among tribes that seem to have no European admixture (no other features are Europoid). Additionally, if you read National Geographic or flip through C.S. Coon's books, you will spot the same hair color diversity in parts of Melanesia, though it is much rarer, and might be the result of European admixture, though that seems implausible in the cases of some highland tribes that Coon indicates exhibit this phenotype. Also, light eyes are more common than blonde or red hair, but I have not read that this usually concomitant feature of Europeans is expressed in these populations, which is strange if the non-black hair is the result of genetic exchange with white males (though the features need not show up in the same individual, if the genes exist in a high enough frequency that homozygotes show up for non-black hair, one would expect a similar number of individuals with light eyes to exist in a given population).

Posted by razib at 10:18 AM