Redheads May Date Back 200K Years

Scientists find evidence of flame-haired Neanderthals
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2007 10:15 AM CDT
Redheads May Date Back 200K Years
Carrot Top is living proof.   (KRT Photos)

(Newser) – 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.

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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.)

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