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The Blonds of Guadalcanal
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May 04, 2012, 10:12 PM
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From the New York Times:

In the Solomon Islands, about 10 percent of the dark-skinned indigenous people have strikingly blond hair. Some islanders theorize that the coloring could be a result of excess sun exposure, or a diet rich in fish. Another explanation is that the blondness was inherited from distant ancestors — European traders and explorers who came to the islands. 

A team led by researchers at Stanford University has identified a gene that is responsible for blond hair in 5 percent to 10 percent of the indigenous population of the Solomon Islands. 

But that’s not the case, researchers now report. The gene variant responsible for blond hair in the islanders is distinctly different from the gene that causes blond hair in Europeans. 

“For me it breaks down any kind of simple notions you might have about race,” said Carlos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University. “Humans are beautifully diverse, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”


For me, it builds up my simple notion that race is less about what you happen to look like than about who your relatives are. We can of course use appearance to guess at who your relations are, but if we have DNA data or long documented pedigrees, as with thoroughbred racehorses, we can skip the classification-by-appearance step.