200 blondes, according to the joke. While the blonde bimbo remains a cultural icon, many women subscribe to the idea that blondes have more fun and go so far as to bleach their hair.
But what about true blondes? Flaxen hair is a genetic thing, of course. But apparently, not all “blonde genes” are the same. It depends where you are born.
The genetic variant that causes many dark-skinned people from the Solomon Islands to have blonde hair is different from the gene possessed by blonde Europeans, the study found. Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that this particular variant is absent in the genomes of Europeans.
This proved a bit surprising, because most studies in human genetics only include participants of European descent. That’s pretty lame, scientifically, but we’ll let it pass.
The frequency of blonde hair in the Solomon Islands is between 5 percent and 10 percent (those sailors, they get everywhere!)
Actually, it may not be visiting Europeans impregnating the women. Many locals have assumed their blonde hair was the result of sun exposure or high fish consumption. The study authors, however, sought to determine if there was a unique genetic basis for this characteristic.
To settle the matter, researchers looked for the genes associated with blonde hair, then selected 43 of the most blonde and 42 of the darkest-haired Islanders from the samples collected, and looked for differences in the frequency of genetic variants between the two groups.
The authors noted that the genetic variant that leads to blonde hair among people in the Solomon Islands is not found in the genomes of Europeans.
“Within a week we had our initial result,” the study’s co-first author, Eimear Kenny, said in the news release. “It was such a striking signal pointing to a single gene — a result you could hang your hat on. That rarely happens in science. It was one of the best experiences of my career.”
“The human characteristic of blonde hair arose independently in equatorial Oceania,” she said. “That’s quite unexpected and fascinating.”
So, it wasn’t the sailors, after all!
French composer Claude Debussy liked blondes. He wrote an evocative piece called The Girl With The Flaxen Hair (La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin). You may know it; if not go here and listen on YouTube, played by Joshua Bell. Now there’s a guy with a violin IQ of 200!
[SOURCE: Stanford University School of Medicine, news release, May 3, 2012]