Blond hair evolved independently in Pacific islands
Science can’t yet tell us whether they have more fun – but it has uncovered a new genetic change that makes people blond. And contrary to long held belief, it seems golden hair hasn’t simply been introduced across the globe by travelling tow heads, but instead evolved separately in different human populations.
Indigenous people of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific have some of the darkest skin pigmentation outside of Africa. But unlike most other tropical populations, they also have a high prevalence of blond hair. Up to 10 per cent of the population is fair haired, the highest proportion outside of Europe. Until now, this odd trait had generally been attributed to the introduction of blond genes by European explorers and traders in preceding centuries. “We originally thought, well that must be a Captain Cook allele,” says Carlos Bustamante at Stanford University.
Yet a closer look revealed that the genetics behind blond hair in Brussels are distinct from those leading to flaxen locks in the South Pacific.