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March 6, 2006

'The last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202'

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Above, the final sentence of yesterday's New York Times story about a recent study exploring why blond hair and blue eyes exist.

Here's the article.

    How Blonds Evolve

    Roger Dobson and Abul Taher report in The London Times (www.timesonline.co.uk) on a study suggesting blonds began having more fun in the Ice Age.

    According to the study, North European women evolved blond hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

    The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.

    Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world.

    Almost the only sustenance in Northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses.

    Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

    Lighter hair colors, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding, and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St. Andrews....

    However, the future of the blond is uncertain.

    A study by the World Health Organization found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene.

    According to the W.H.O. study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.

********************

I've always enjoyed the sort of "just so" stories like the one above posited by scientists attempting to figure out why things happened as they did.

Let me make a prediction: long before 2202, the DNA sequences and epigenetic markers coding for blondness and icy–blue eyes will have been identified, isolated, and packaged for sale to anyone who wishes to have these features.

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What is natural?

If an individual in 2100 buys the deluxe Nordic package — which will also convert her or his heritable germ cells into blondness delivery devices — then the resulting blond child will be as natural as Grace Kelly (above).

Here's the story by Roger Dobson and Abul Taher from the February 26 London Times.

    Cavegirls were first blondes to have fun

    The modern gentleman may prefer blondes.

    But new research has found that it was cavemen who were the first to be lured by flaxen locks.

    According to the study, north European women evolved blonde hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to make them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males.

    The study argues that blond hair originated in the region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago.

    Until then, humans had the dark brown hair and dark eyes that still dominate in the rest of the world.

    Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses.

    Finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men.

    Lighter hair colours, which started as rare mutations, became popular for breeding and numbers increased dramatically, according to the research, published under the aegis of the University of St Andrews.

    "Human hair and eye colour are unusually diverse in northern and eastern Europe (and their) origin over a short span of evolutionary time indicates some kind of selection," says the study by Peter Frost, a Canadian anthropologist.

    Frost adds that the high death rate among male hunters "increased the pressures of sexual selection on early European women, one possible outcome being an unusual complex of colour traits."

    Frost's theory, to be published this week in Evolution and Human Behavior, the academic journal, was supported by Professor John Manning, a specialist in evolutionary psychology at the University of Central Lancashire.

    "Hair and eye colour tend to be uniform in many parts of the world, but in Europe there is a welter of variants," he said. "The mate choice explanation now being put forward is, in my mind, close to being correct."

    Frost’s theory is also backed up by a separate scientific analysis of north European genes carried out at three Japanese universities, which has isolated the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair to about 11,000 years ago.

    The hair colour gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe and the continent has an unusually wide range of hair and eye shades.

    In the rest of the world, dark hair and eyes are overwhelmingly dominant.

    Just how such variety emerged over such a short period of time in one part of the world has long been a mystery.

    According to the new research, if the changes had occurred by the usual processes of evolution, they would have taken about 850,000 years.

    But modern humans, emigrating from Africa, reached Europe only 35,000-40,000 years ago.

    Instead, Frost attributes the rapid evolution to how they gathered food.

    In Africa there was less dependence on animals and women were able to collect fruit for themselves.

    In Europe, by contrast, food gathering was almost exclusively a male hunter’s preserve.

    The retreating ice sheets left behind a landscape of fertile soil with plenty of grass and moss for herbivorous animals to eat, but few plants edible for humans.

    Women therefore took on jobs such as building shelters and making clothes while the men went on hunting trips, where the death rate was high.

    The increase in competition for males led to rapid change as women struggled to evolve the most alluring qualities.

    Frost believes his theory is supported by studies which show blonde hair is an indicator for high oestrogen levels in women.

    Jilly Cooper, 69, the author, described how in her blonde youth she had "certainly got more glances. I remember when I went to Majorca when I was 20, my bum was sore from getting pinched".

    However, Jodie Kidd, 27, the blonde model, disagrees with the theory: "I don't think being blonde makes you more ripe for sexual activity. It’s much more to do with personality than what you look like. Beauty is much deeper than the colour of your hair."

    Film star blondes such as Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Sharon Stone and Scarlett Johansson are held up as ideals of feminine allure.

    However, the future of the blonde is uncertain.

    A study by the World Health Organisation found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene.

    According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.

********************

Here is the abstract of the article advancing this theory;

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it's by Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost and was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

    European hair and eye color: A case of frequency–dependent sexual selection?

    Human hair and eye color is unusually diverse in northern and eastern Europe.

    The many alleles involved (at least seven for hair color) and their independent origin over a short span of evolutionary time indicate some kind of selection.

    Sexual selection is particularly indicated because it is known to favor color traits and color polymorphisms.

    In addition, hair and eye color is most diverse in what used to be, when first peopled by hunter-gatherers, a unique ecozone of low-latitude continental tundra.

    This type of environment skews the operational sex ratio (OSR) of hunter-gatherers toward a male shortage in two ways: (1) men have to hunt highly mobile and spatially concentrated herbivores over longer distances, with no alternate food sources in case of failure, the result being more deaths among young men; (2) women have fewer opportunities for food gathering and thus require more male provisioning, the result being less polygyny.

    These two factors combine to leave more women than men unmated at any one time.

    Such an OSR imbalance would have increased the pressures of sexual selection on early European women, one possible outcome being an unusual complex of color traits: hair- and eye-color diversity and, possibly, extreme skin depigmentation.

********************

And that's how the leopard

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got its stripes.

March 6, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

I'm 37 and male and all the males in my family have the same hair colour as me - somewhere inbetween a white blond and strawberry blond. My family history is Irish (although the blond there has some influence from the Vikings I'm sure)and I'm from the North East of England - blonds are common there. Notably, blonds with dark eyebrows generally are from Germanic stock but those with blond eyebrows (like me) are Celtic.

Posted by: Rudolph | Nov 13, 2009 9:25:44 AM

When I was a boy I had light blonde hair and I have brown eyes with some green in them, suppose you could say hazel? My mother has wavy dark hair and dark eyes and has olive skin and seems to have an almost year round tan. not sure whether she has Mediterranean blood somewhere along the distant line but it's probably quite likely don't you think? even though her parents were born in the UK and she was too, on the other hand my father was blonde with light blue eyes and fair skin possibly reaching to an Eastern/Northern European "Haplogroup" DNA.

Posted by: Gaz | Aug 12, 2009 2:55:09 PM

honestly as long as there is cold weather there will always be blondes. the colder the environment the lighter the hair and eyes become because its so damn obvious that absorption of more sunlight into the body is reduces the amount of pigments. just like a tan.

Posted by: dude | Jul 28, 2009 11:57:20 AM

Cool? Mike said (11/28/08) you redheads are hot.

Posted by: Flautist | Jul 20, 2009 6:07:46 PM

Wouldn't red-heads die out far sooner?

It'll be a shame, because we are all cooler.

It's a fact.

Posted by: Rocketboy | Jul 20, 2009 5:41:55 PM

This myth has no basis in fact. Blones may become rarer, but will never die out completely. Even if blondes mate with darker-haired people, the number of total blonde alleles in the population is unchanged.
Here is an example:
Two blond people marry dark-haired people. Both couples have children. The children marry and have four children themselves. If the odds exert themselves, one of the four children will be blond.
Someone who is 7/8 Asian could carry a blond gene.
I hope this is clear.

Posted by: Mike | Jul 20, 2009 4:18:32 PM

I agree with IB and MB, Blonds are overrated. Stop tossing the Brunettes aside,this is one man who doesn't prefer blonds, never have and I never will.

Brunettes with hazel/brown and green eyes are the most beautiful creatures on earth, they have an exotic look to them. Let's not forget the feisty looking red heads are just as hot.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 28, 2008 2:50:54 PM

I don't understand why some people talk so much trash about blondes. I am one, and very proud! It seems there are very few NATURAL blondes, though. Maybe that's the problem?
Oh and as for blonde celebrities.. try Laura Ramsey or Cameron Diaz. OBVIOUSLY there aren't going to be as many blonde celebrities, because almost none of them are natural- but isn't that a good thing? I personally enjoy standing out in a sea of brunettes and bleached blondes!!

Posted by: Af | Nov 25, 2008 1:48:07 PM

It's strange, but according to your theory there should have been blond native north Americans, blond Asian people, etc...

But seems like the mutations happened mainly within the Indo-European tribes
There has always been a difference in looks between Nordic Europeans and Mediterranean counterparts.

Mediterranean people tend to have dark complexions with dark eyes and their hair seems to be more wavy than the Nordic people's.

It has something to do with the adaptation to environments and changes, I agree to that.

I've noticed that many people with light eyes tend to have vision problems - I've also read that light eyes, especially blue mainly lack the qualities needed for survival, while having beauty.
Most of the people in my family have had problems with vision, and I was gifted with a 20/20 if not superior sight.

I'm the only one in my family with hazel eyes (green with weird brown marks around the center) and curly dark brown hair, while all the others have light eyes, light brown or blond hair. We all have fair complexions...

Posted by: Dilligent | Jul 14, 2008 7:21:52 PM

Germanic peoples actually range from average European pigmentation to quite dark, contrary to the bad history and propaganda that was making the rounds not so long ago. And Finns are not Scandinavians, they are of the Urgo-Finnic group, and are related to the Hungarians.

Generally speaking, the lowest pigmentation (meaning, fair skin, blond/light hair, blue eyes) on the European continent is among the Slavs, particularly in and around Poland (although the Czechs are supposedly noticeably darker, but I do not know this for certain). Some ethnic groups with Slavic origin have however assimilated large numbers of their darker neighbors (Russians, including those in the East of Ukraine; the South Slavs east of Italy), and so regions with little assimilation are better indicators of what existed prior to intermarriage. The features of the Slavs were noted over the centuries by Arab traders traveling throughout Europe, who occasionally brought a few specimens back from their travels to, for example, Moorish Spain, who served as guards and probably concubines. Flash back to the 20th century, Hitler ordered large numbers of Slavic children to be taken by either the SS, Gestapo or Wehrmacht from their parents and families to be raised with German parents in order to "enhance the German race." (To this day, most of these children and their descendants have little idea of their origin).

However, the current fashion is dark eyes, hair and complexion (as attested by the popularity of Brazilian girls, who are actually quite diverse). Of course it varies over time, as it *is* fashion.

Posted by: John Lent | Jun 17, 2008 8:19:00 PM

I'm sorry but i'm Finnish blonde hair blue eyes.... who cares!!!!! Shouldn't we be researching something important not where our hair colour came from!

Posted by: Ellie | Jun 9, 2008 7:17:28 PM

What an interesting article. Well, I come from a very mixed ethnic background. My mother is Filipino, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish and Turkish. My father is French, Spanish and Native American Indian. So, I've got dark hair and eyes and a lightly tanned-olive complexion. Guess what? I have an 11 year old daughter who has very blonde hair, blue eyes and skin as white as Cate Blanchett. I don't know if there is some recessive gene lurking in my DNA but she looks very "Germanic" like her daddy! (people would assume that I was her nanny!) I was really astounded when I was giving birth to her and my doctor announced "Look at all that blonde hair". I thought she was kidding! Oh, when she was younger, her hair was a very platinum blonde. Now it looks like a typical "Californian" blonde. I think its gorgeous :-)

Posted by: Frances | Mar 27, 2008 5:07:11 PM

wether or not this extinction theory is true or not, as will be seen in 2060 for red heads, and 2202 for blondes, the specific GENOMES that make up people with hair and eye color variants such as these must as the article stated, be singled out contained and be selectively paired with and only with(for the time being)other GENOMES with the same stable genetic makeup of Northern European lineage, this should simply be done as a help for a type of human
being that might be in serious distress in the near future, it should be done, for if it where another race of people in such jeopordy as these, there would be this same sort of concern and speculation regarding it, and so it is the duty of the international scientific community to do all within it's power to preserve these genes as a simple gesture of humanism, I myself am not blond or blue eyed or fair skinned, my father is, my hair is dark as my eyes are brown, and my skin has an olive complexion, sometimes I wonder if any of my fathers genes have passed on to me, I know they have, but it's still a dark thought, a dark thought that perhaps nothing will be done to stop a serious loss to the total human gene pool, therefore it is the responsibility of the international scientific community to do all within it's power to secure the exhistance of our fellow human beings, and i say this only because I am impartial to all, and to stand by and let an entire gene-pool vanish would not only be irresponsible, it would be a CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY!!

Posted by: LIFE | Mar 25, 2008 1:30:06 PM

I'm 35 years old and still have very light natural blonde hair, I've never dyed it. It was white blonde when I was a child and is now more of a gold blonde, similar to how Gwyneth Paltrow dyes hers. People always assume my hair is dyed and I have been asked which hair colour I use! My mother and father both have darker hair and brown eyes (mine are blue). I get my colouring from my grandfather. I'm quite pale skinned too.

I too dislike the 'trashy' image which blondes have these days, I think this is more the dyed blondes than us naturals!

I live in the UK, although apparently I have a blood group which originates from scandinavia.

As a child I wanted dark hair but nowadays I appreciate being kind of unique, I'm proud to be natural!

Posted by: Bev | Jan 3, 2008 10:36:33 AM

I have always had Plaitnum blond hair and bright blue-green eyes.I am the only one in my family (i'm not adopted)with fair hair and light eyes but strangely enough I do not have pale skin. I am considered medium dark complexion wise which basically means I look as if I have a perpetual tan.I get compliments all the time on how pretty people seem to think I am. I now dye my hair a beautiful shade of dark brown and have actually been mistaken for the victoria secret model Adriana Lima.Needless to say that is very flattering.I just decided I wanted a change and now I keep my light hair dyed dark and even I have to admit I like it better dark.Everyone says I look very exotic and I get treated differently.The people who say hair color doesn't matter are so mistaken!I think blond is beautiful but I'll stick with my box of dye!!!lol

Posted by: Shayla Leighton Mandylor | Dec 17, 2007 1:19:28 AM

I am full-blooded Finn, everyone in my family is blond, all 7 children. Same with all my cousins other than the ones with an italian dad. Some have a dirtier blond, and some have very light blond. We all had platinum blond hair when we were young, and all have light blue eyes. I read somewhere that Finland has the most isolated genes so much genetic testing is done. Southwestern Finland's population has more than 80% blond and blue eyed people. I always wanted dark curly hair, but I guess it makes me feel more unique as a real blond.

Posted by: Nevalainen | Nov 27, 2007 10:54:55 PM

I think it's because too many of them are winning Darwin awards

Posted by: Jay | Oct 21, 2007 1:59:28 PM

I am dutch and have very white blonde hair, blue eyes and very pale skin. it is very common in the netherlands but when i go to america everyone thinks my hair is dyed

Posted by: blondie | Sep 16, 2007 3:44:23 PM

Im blonde, I was platinum blonde as a child and now have hair a similar colour to Reese Witherspoons. I used to hate being so pale and having a dusting of freckles over my nose and cheeks but now Im older all I get is compliments on my complexion. I dont like the way that 'Footballer's Wives' types give natural blondes a bad name - unnatural blonde hair in most cases looks trashy

Posted by: Jemma Cope | Sep 14, 2007 8:27:44 PM

Hi my name is Amy Seppala my maiden name is Amy Parkkonen.My husbands name is malichai seppala.were both finnish.we have 10 kids-talli,trez,mataya,makeena,rayne,misty,shaylen,dexter,kaisa,shania.we are all have platinum blonde hair[known as white]but were not old or anything.ha.

Posted by: Amy Seppala | Sep 8, 2007 6:19:55 PM

On the other hand ... 10-12,000 years ago a group of people settled in the region north-east of the Baltic (roughly cognate with modern-day Lithuania). One or more of the members of their group carried the recessive gene responsible for blondness, and because of the sparsity (lower numbers of available adults) in the group, successive generations of related first and second cousins intermarried. This pattern of intermarriage increased the number of men and women who subsequently carried the recessive gene, which increased the number of people (both male and female) who inherited the autosomal recessive from their parents, which increased the level of blondness amongst Baltic Europeans. These people then migrated west and south, and passed on the same increased autosomal pattern of inheritance to the other European peoples they subsequently married into.

Posted by: Mark | Apr 14, 2007 4:27:32 PM

I wonder is there any Finnish or European with real natural platinum blonde hair or real natural pink

hair?


If there are please someone or somebody provide me with some images.

Thanks.

Posted by: | Apr 4, 2007 7:20:08 PM

I have blonde hair and blue eyes. My skin is far from pale. I have medium-light skin. I wish I had lighter skin. I wish I had Cate Blanchett's skin color. I am much darker than Cate Blanchett. I like pale skin because any hair color suits pale skin. I don't shave my leg and underarm hair because they are very blonde. If I were not a natural blonde, I would have shaved my body hair. Every single hair in my body is blonde. Everyone makes fun of me of being a natural blonde because my skin is not fair enough. I am not even pale enough to be southern Italian. It is quite common among Middle Easterns and North Indians. I am 0% Caucasian.

Posted by: Kashfia | Feb 16, 2007 6:29:24 PM

When I was boy, light skin was attractive but not blonde or blue eyes ... it was like a disease .... but as i grew i started getting attracted to blonde and blue . I donno why

Posted by: hello | Apr 10, 2006 3:57:40 PM

IMHO, if skin color/absorption of sunlight theory is indeed true, then lighter skin and eyes should be observed not only in northern europe, but also in northern asia among the native siberians and along north america among the native americans, and throughout inuit populations everywhere.

the sexual selection hypothesis seems correct. with an operational sex ratio skewed as stated in the article, many men would have selected mates for traits highly desirable for their rarity (we still know men to select for mates on physical traits), traits that within a couple of generations manifest themselves in progeny, making those progeny desirable, as well.

such mate selection is still in operation. when i lived in north africa, many men and women there considered green-eyed north african children rare and precious; i'm sure north africans considered green eyes quite attractive among marriageable prospects. and both there and in china, where i also lived, many women considered me attractive for my brown hair and green-blue eyes, when in truth i might be thought average-looking on a good day by others here in the states.

just my two-cents' worth.

Posted by: james | Apr 2, 2006 10:05:20 PM

What a load of old hornswoggle. I can understand that the blond/blue eyes combination BECAME attractive to the opposite sex, as it was rarer and different, but it didn't evolve from that.
The blond hair/blue eyes is a by-product of the founder mutation which allows the absorption of more sunlight into the body by reducing the amount of pigment. Simply put, dark-skinned people absorb less sunlight. This is fine in tropical regions, where there is sunshine to burn, but in northern climes where sunlight hours and intensity is much reduced, the body needs to absorb more sunlight, not less. Hence the very successful mutation that produced the fair skin and hair. The blue eyes are a by-product of this.
So a bunch of dark-skinned tribes migrated north out of Africa, and suffered Vitamin D deficiencies. The body, clever device that it is, eventually produced a mutation that overcame this little problem. Presto, a few fair people were born. Being somewhat different, they attracted attention, and presumably, mates. In those regions, they prospered as they were healthier. More blonds appeared etc.

Posted by: Mandy | Mar 27, 2006 1:05:14 AM

W.H.O. says:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/statement05/en/

Posted by: Jim Biancolo | Mar 7, 2006 10:39:01 AM

It dont matter how good theys look! Ya goota still listen to thair SH**!!!

Goodness, I went southern neanderthal for a spot... dear me...

God save the Queen!

pip,pip

Posted by: Hugo | Mar 6, 2006 10:49:38 PM

I am with you IB. The more exotic, dark haired beauty, the more interested I am. A blonde, is a blonde is a blonde. Be still my heart. Angelina is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Brad is one lucky SOB!

Posted by: mb | Mar 6, 2006 9:18:08 PM

WHAT?! I don't buy it. I prefer the old theory that those born with the blonde / fair skin / blue eyes genes never lived long enough to breed in Africa (given the heat and exposure to sun). Whereas perhaps in snowy / cold environments perhaps the fair skin / blonde / blue eyes combination meant better camoflaging or at least didn't result in them dying of sun cancer or whatever.

I mean come ON. All blondes are sexier than other hair colors? Need I say Gwyneth Paltrow vs. Selma Hayek? Or even Jennifer Anniston vs. Angelina Jolie? Callista Flockhart vs. Lucy Liu?

I know which ones I'd rather kick out of bed.

Posted by: IB | Mar 6, 2006 9:13:25 PM

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