Riddle of Solomon solved: Scientists find South Sea islanders’ blond hair didn’t come from Europeans, but evolved separately

'They have this very dark skin and bright blond hair. It was mind-blowing,' said Myles. 'As a geneticist on the beach watching the kids playing, you count up the frequency of kids with blond hair, and say, 'Wow, it's 5 to 10 percent.'

The inhabitants of the Solomon Islands – east of Papua New Guinea – are very dark-skinned – but have puzzled scientists for decades with their blond hair.

Now a genetic study has found that the islanders have a ‘homegrown’ gene that gives them blond hair – and it’s different from the one in Europeans.

‘Its frequency is between 5 and 10 percent across the Solomon Islands, which is about the same as where I’m from,’ said study author Eimear Kenny, PhD, who was born in Ireland.

Globally, blond hair is rare, occurring with substantial frequency only in northern Europe and in Oceania, which includes the Solomon Islands and its neighbors.

Many assumed the blond hair of Melanesia was the result of gene flow — a trait passed on by European explorers, traders and others who visited in the preceding centuries.

The islanders themselves give several possible explanations for its presence – they generally chalked it up to sun exposure, or a diet rich in fish, say the researchers.

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