London – Red hair may be the genetic legacy of Neanderthals, according to a new study by British scientists.
Researchers at the John Radcliffe Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford were quoted by The Times as saying the so-called “ginger gene” which gives people red hair, fair skin and freckles could be up to 100 000 years old.
They claim that their discovery points to the gene having originated in Neanderthal man who lived in Europe for 200 000 years before Homo sapien settlers, the ancestors of modern man, arrived from Africa about 40 000 years ago.
Rosalind Harding, the research team leader, told The Times: “The gene is certainly older than 50 000 years and it could be as old as 100 000 years.
“An explanation is that it comes from Neanderthals.” It is estimated that at least 10 percent of Scots have red hair and a further 40 percent carry the gene responsible, which could account for their once fearsome reputation as fighters.
Neanderthals have been characterised as migrant hunters and violent cannibals who probably ate most of their meat raw. They were taller and stockier than Homo sapiens, but with shorter limbs, bigger faces and noses, receding chins and low foreheads.
The two species overlapped for a period of time and the Oxford research appears to suggests that they must have successfully interbred for the “ginger gene” to survive. Neanderthals became extinct about 28 000 years ago, the last dying out in southern Spain and southwest France. – Sapa-DPA That Harding woman’s barking, I heard her on the radio when this came out a couple of years back. Check this out.Other lines of genetic research include R.M. Harding’s studies which look at variation in the betaglobin gene Harding found that one major betaglobin gene lineage, thought to have arisen more than 200,000 years ago, is widely distributed in Asia but rare in Africa, suggesting that archaic populations in Asia contributed to the modern gene pool. Used to work up here, and all.
And homo sapiens was black skinned in the immediate push from africa?
If you mean Cro-Magnons in Europe, absolutely not. They entered Europe from Central Asia and/or the Middle East. Black skin would have been selected away well before they arrived in Europe. And that’s if their ancestors were black-skinned to begin with, which is hardly established. Black skin is a highly specialized adaptation to hot, humid conditions.
Re: Auel vs. Kurten: Black-skinned Cro-Magnons in Europe 35,000 years ago is even less plausible than blond, blue-eyed Cro-Magnons. Rickets would make it rather hard for black-skinned types to outbreed Neanderthals.
In one of his latest books, “Next”, Michael Crichton makes a quite funny (and sarcastic) speculation regarding this idea of red haired neanderthals and that old urban legend about the inevitable extinction of red hair in current times.
BTW, the book is an uncompromised, entertaining must-read for anyone interested on the subjects discussed in GNXP.
Regarding the books from Jean Auel: there’s only one black-skinned character in the book, and he’s not native of Europe – he came from Africa, in a long, long trip.
“highly specialized adaptation to hot, humid conditions. “
The Rift Valley is not “hot and humid”…black skin would not be accurate, more like “brown” skin.
Humans were likely brown skinned as they spread into the Middle East (obviously some went South along the coast and likely stayed “brown” as Melanesians are not “black” like Nilotic peoples).
I would agree that once journeying up around Iran and into Central Asia humans would have started to heavily select for lighter skin, not Irish Redhead white…I doubt that. Maybe “tan” at least..similar to a lot of Middle Eastern peoples today in Iraq and Iran. There would be no reason to be “lighter” as the sun is still quite strong in that region and although more forested than today, they would still be exposed while hunting/gathering.
Humans probably started to reach average Europeans skin tone norms on the Central Asian step, but I would imagine a “pasty white” appearance did not occur until they got to the Baltic region and it happened over a long period. In that region I would also imagine blue eyes and blond hair started coming under heavy selection (although it could have existed before).
The Rift Valley is not “hot and humid”…black skin would not be accurate, more like “brown” skin.
But I don’t think Melanesians are a good example. Some are as dark as the darkest West African, no doubt owing to selection in their present environment. San Bushmen might be closer to the mark. But I’d be wary of claiming any particular modern population has “stayed” the same color as the “out of Africans” without strong molecular genetics evidence.
many kazahks are very brownish in complexion in my experience, though many are also brunette white.
Modern Central Asians are influenced by relatively recent gene flow from East Asia.
This Khoisan guy is a “golden brown” color and as we know they once lived spread out over Southern Africa is semi-arid lands but also all the way south to the cape which is similar in climate to California (Mediterranean like) and we do not know how long they inhabited that region.
Razib is also correct that Turks came from Western Mongolia and the people in that region are not “brown” more of an olive to white coloring. It is likely that Central Asian people have been a “sandy brown or tan coloring” since they came out of the Middle East from ancient Iran. Then again as he mentioned (likely due to back migration from Europe and maybe Anatolia) they may have intermixed with lighter people fairly early, as light eyes and hair are not unusual in the region. It could be there is no strong selection for or against very light skin in Central Asia due to climate, or maybe the early domestication of horses allowed later influxes of darker skin people to get vitamin D from horse milk (which also has less lactose than cow milk so is more tolerable).
It’s extremely relevant, since we’re talking about Europeans and their ancestors, and light skin appears to have evolved separately in East Asia (different mutations are involved). Moreover, Northern Mongoloid facial morphology may aid in the absorption of sunlight and production of vitamin D relative to Europeans via flattening, skin type (beyond color), and fat deposits, as suggested by Coon.
It’s extremely relevant, since we’re talking about Europeans and their ancestors, and light skin appears to have evolved separately in East Asia (different mutations are involved).
please. don’t try to school me here, i know this shit very well, and this my weblog so don’t try to wiggle out of your point by obfuscation as if we operate on a neutral playing field. in any case, i do agree that there would been selection against very dark skin. but the range could plausibly be from brown to pink in the mid-latitudes judging from modern peoples. for prehistoric people we know that european selection on loci such as SLC45A2, SLC24A5 and OCA2 are all pretty recent, the first around 10-15 K before present and the last two 5-10 K before the present. so if we’re talking about cro-magnons if they are ancestral to modern europeans then it seems some of their loci were not selected for/fixed toward light complected genes.
It could be there is no strong selection for or against very light skin in Central Asia due to climate, or maybe the early domestication of horses allowed later influxes of darker skin people to get vitamin D from horse milk (which also has less lactose than cow milk so is more tolerable).
there’s selection for SLC24A5 and SLC45A2 (MAPT), which correlate with light skin. both these are relatively recent, the former more so. the extent of these and selection at loci like TYR etc. is contingent upon population admixture to some extent from what i recall. my own impression is that mongolians and kazakhs are swarthier than north chinese, so it has to be more that UV exposure alone.
The darkest Africans don’t live in a tropical zone. They live in semi-arid regions of Sudan/Uganda/Chad, etc.
Heat and humidity are likely both relevant, but heat more so. Humidity tends to be highest near the Equator and coastlines. The amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface tends to peak near the Tropic of Cancer.
. It is likely that Central Asian people have been a “sandy brown or tan coloring” since they came out of the Middle East from ancient Iran.
ok, let’s back up here. note, selection for SLC24A5 in the middle east, which is likely responsible for 25-40% of the variation between the olive complexion of that region vs. africa is only in the last 10,000 years. central asia was settle from southwest asia something like 40,000 years ago. you can’t project the contemporary genetic architecture to the past nor the contemporary phenotype.
so I wonder how dark skinned people survived at that latitude up until relatively recent time.
well, depends on what you mean by dark skinned of course. note that the peoples have existed at high latitudes with relatively dark skin. the tasmanians are one. initially they consumed a lot of marine life, but later they abandoned this. would be interesting if archeologists could note evidence of rickets. also, iran is at the inverse latitude of southern south africa. the khoisan peoples are golden-brown, not light olive brown or brunette white as iranians are. and aboriginal peoples of australia lived at even higher latitudes (that of southern europe).
Black skin would have been selected away well before they arrived in Europe. And that’s if their ancestors were black-skinned to begin with, which is hardly established. Black skin is a highly specialized adaptation to hot, humid conditions.
What’s humidity got to do with it?
The ancient form of MC1R is what “today’s Africans” have (Rogers & al 2004 article on loss of human body hair 1.2 mya). I don’t remember what they include in “today’s africans” but presumably that would mean they were dark brown at the least.