Islanders' Blond Hair Is Genetic Quirk
It comes from a gene mutation, not Europeans
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2012 3:50 PM CDT
Residents of the Solomon Islands in 2007.   (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

(Newser) – A peculiar pairing of dark skin and blond hair in the native population of the Solomon Islands is due to a unique gene and not, as previously thought, the intermingling of Europeans with the inhabitants, finds a new study. About 5 to 10% of the indigenous peoples on the islands have unusually light hair, and after analyzing DNA samples from 1,000 residents, researchers linked the hair color to a specific gene that is not found in Europeans, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

''So the human characteristic of blond hair arose independently in equatorial Oceania," said the study's lead author. "That's quite unexpected and fascinating." Another co-author said the results show the importance of investigating the genomes of rarely researched populations. "Since most studies in human genetics only include participants of European descent, we may be getting a very biased view of which genes and mutations influence the traits we investigate."