Redheads made up at least 1% of the Neanderthal population, scientists have found by extracting genetic material from fossilized bones. The analyzed DNA yielded a gene that controls melanin production in skin and hair. "We can't say anything for the actual fossils we looked at, but we can be sure that part of the Neanderthal population was red-haired," says one researcher.
Light hair and skin were beneficial in Ice Age Europe (where Neanderthals lived} because of the low sunlight and UV levels; lack of pigment lets skin absorb more light and make more vitamin D. And Neanderthals weren't alone: the new discovery comes after another study that showed that some woolly mammoths also may have had red hair. (Read more Neanderthals stories.)