Do Blondes Really Have More Fun?

This gene is not the only one involved in producing blond hair color. There are about six other genes involved, but it's significant that tweaking this gene, and only this gene, produced such a dramatic result.

Again, these scientists aren't trying to figure out how to produce more blonds. That ambition died out with Nazi Germany. What they want to do is determine which of the millions of genes needs to be tweaked, and how much, to help the body fight a specific illness, or respond to a certain drug, without messing up the entire system.

That's a huge challenge, but this research, like others, suggests it's possible.

But does it really say anything about an evolutionary preference for blonds?

Evolution is based on natural selection -- an organism selects a mutation because it is useful -- like a cave man who can whip every guy in the clan. He's so admired that he mates often, passing on his muscle genes to many offspring, who eventually become dominant.

However, Charles Darwin and many biologists since have argued over something called "sexual selection." Do we select some mutations because they make us sexy?

Birds do, obviously. Bright plumage attracts mates, so the birds with fancy feathers produce more offspring.

That would suggest sexual selection is why so many women become blondes, either with or without chemical aids.

But not necessarily, according to Kingsley. The same gene that produces blond hair also is involved in lighter skin pigment. As early humans moved north out of Africa, they encountered a much less sunny climate and no longer needed the dark skin that protected them from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, so they "selected" for lighter skin, which helped them absorb more vitamin D.

That clearly is a survival advantage. But blond hair?

Maybe we like blonds just because they are different. Humans started out with dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes. The first blonds appeared in northern Europe and Scandinavia, and have since turned up in other areas, including the Solomon Islands northeast of Australia, known for the darkest skin outside of Africa.

The appearance of blond natives in the Solomon Islands was due to a gene mutation that was completely different from the change that introduced blondness to Europe, and it had an unpleasant effect. The first natives on those islands who showed up with blond hair were treated as freaks.

By the way, not all blonds were gods and goddesses among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Prostitutes also colored their hair blond.

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