Monday, November 5, 2007

Red-haired Neanderthals?

A study just published in Science and in which Jaume Bertranpetit (a geneticist from the CEXS-UPF, one of the centres at the PRBB) has collaborated, shows that Neanderthals varied significantly in pigmentation levels, potentially to the scale observed in modern humans. Analysing the sequence of a gene which regulates pigmentation (MC1R) in the fossils of two Neanderthals, they found a variable that does not exist in the studied current populations but that is similar to that found in red-haired Europeans nowadays. This suggests that Neanderthals may have had clear skin and a hair colour somewhere between blonde and red. This is the first time that an external physical trait of this extinct human species has been identified.

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