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Thread: The Science of Blonde Hair

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    The Science of Blonde Hair

    Here's been a lot of speculation on this forum about the origins of blond hair in northern Europeans. Here's the abstract of an article by Guenther et al that addresses the issue with some new research.

    "Hair color differences are among the most obvious examples of phenotypic variation in humans. Although genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have implicated multiple loci in human pigment variation, the causative base-pair changes are still largely unknown1. Here we dissect a regulatory region of the KITLG gene (encoding KIT ligand) that is significantly associated with common blond hair color in northern Europeans2. Functional tests demonstrate that the region contains a regulatory enhancer that drives expression in developing hair follicles. This enhancer contains a common SNP (rs12821256) that alters a binding site for the lymphoid enhancer-binding factor 1 (LEF1) transcription factor, reducing LEF1 responsiveness and enhancer activity in cultured human keratinocytes. Mice carrying ancestral or derived variants of the human KITLG enhancer exhibit significant differences in hair pigmentation, confirming that altered regulation of an essential growth factor contributes to the classic blond hair phenotype found in northern Europeans."
    Unfortunately, the main article is behind a paywall. The abstract can be found here.

    http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vao...l/ng.2991.html

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    Only 14% of northwest European CEU has derived alleles in SNP rs12821256 even though over 50% of northwest Europeans(not counting Insular Celts) have some blonde influence on their hair. I am pretty sure when they say classic blonde hair they mean purely yellow hair.

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    Figure 2 says:



    (a) A 17.1-kb region bounded by SNPs rs444647 and rs661114 defines the candidate interval for blondness2. Within this region, a large block of mammalian sequence conservation (blue peaks) overlaps peak marker rs12821256.

    The rest is behind the paywall.

    I checked these SNPs for me and there you are the results:

    intergenic 89328335 rs12821256 C or T TT


    intergenic 89337963 rs661114 A or G GG


    intergenic 89320878 rs444647 A or G AA


    Dark brown hair, plain brown when I was a child. Does it match?

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    From posts on 23andme, it appears that the "T" allele is the ancestral allele, the non-blond one.

    This SNP only accounts for 3-6% of the observed variance in hair color. Each "C" allele doubles the odds of getting blonde hair. Pigmentation is the result of the combination of numerous snps.

    This snp does not seem to affect other aspects of pigmentation as do some snps which seem to have effects across the board.

    What they appear to be trying to show isthat the snp in question actually causes the pigmentation change. In other words, it's not just a question of linkage because it is in the correct area.


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    Ok, thanks. At least this SNP works for me, since the one listed by 23andme definitely doesn't. It maybe be possible to have blond hair by just having the appropiate genotypes on other SNPs though.

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    The book, "The 10,000 Year explosion" says that the Vandals may have played a part in the distribution of the blue and
    green-eye gene plus blond hair.
    có che un pòpoło no 'l defende pi ła só łéngua el xe prónto par èser s'ciavo

    when a people no longer dares to defend its language it is ripe for slavery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sile View Post
    The book, "The 10,000 Year explosion" says that the Vandals may have played a part in the distribution of the blue and
    green-eye gene plus blond hair.
    That guy wrote the book long before DNA was used for human genetics, and his theory is 100% false. There is no reason to even debate it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fire Haired14 View Post
    That guy wrote the book long before DNA was used for human genetics, and his theory is 100% false. There is no reason to even debate it.
    Maybe you are right, we should not debate any historian prior to ..err,hmm say the year 2000

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sile View Post
    The book, "The 10,000 Year explosion" says that the Vandals may have played a part in the distribution of the blue and
    green-eye gene plus blond hair.
    I haven't read that book. Does the author think that the Vandals were descended from the people of the Andronov Horizon? Because they apparently had blond hair.

    Until we have a better idea of exactly who the Vandals were and how much trace they left in northern Europe, I don't think we can draw many conclusions. Blond hair, although found elsewhere, is much more prevalent in the northern hemisphere, and I still wonder whether light levels affect the genetics of blondness, although that argument clearly falls down when one looks at groups like the Inuit. I don't think at this point we have a clear answer, even if we know what genes are most responsible for blondness. IMO, we need more data about population movements and when and where blondness appeared in large quantities. I suspect modern northern European blondness appeared on site in the Baltic and in Scandinavia, for reasons we don't yet fully understand, even though it has existed and does exist elsewhere. Look at all those blond haired blue eyed Balts and Scandinavians who seem to have skin that looks as much pale yellow as it does white (when compared to the whiteness of an Irish redhead, for example) and tell me if you think the answer is simple. Of course, given the probable time of blond emergence in the north, the Vandals could have been involved, but not necessarily.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    I haven't read that book. Does the author think that the Vandals were descended from the people of the Andronov Horizon? Because they apparently had blond hair.
    What????!!!!! Vandals had nothing to do with the Andronovo culture just like how English have nothing to do with Russians even though both have high amounts of blonde hair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fire Haired14 View Post
    What????!!!!! Vandals had nothing to do with the Andronovo culture just like how English have nothing to do with Russians even though both have high amounts of blonde hair.
    That's kind of the point of my comment, genius. There's also no reason to think that the Vandals, a German speaking tribe who ended up in North Africa, have anything to do with modern Latvians.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    I haven't read that book. Does the author think that the Vandals were descended from the people of the Andronov Horizon? Because they apparently had blond hair.

    Until we have a better idea of exactly who the Vandals were and how much trace they left in northern Europe, I don't think we can draw many conclusions. Blond hair, although found elsewhere, is much more prevalent in the northern hemisphere, and I still wonder whether light levels affect the genetics of blondness, although that argument clearly falls down when one looks at groups like the Inuit. I don't think at this point we have a clear answer, even if we know what genes are most responsible for blondness. IMO, we need more data about population movements and when and where blondness appeared in large quantities. I suspect modern northern European blondness appeared on site in the Baltic and in Scandinavia, for reasons we don't yet fully understand, even though it has existed and does exist elsewhere. Look at all those blond haired blue eyed Balts and Scandinavians who seem to have skin that looks as much pale yellow as it does white (when compared to the whiteness of an Irish redhead, for example) and tell me if you think the answer is simple. Of course, given the probable time of blond emergence in the north, the Vandals could have been involved, but not necessarily.
    from the north caucasus to sweden ...............I am talking a very long time ago as per the book...........hair colour, eye colour etc does not happen overnight

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    That's kind of the point of my comment, genius. There's also no reason to think that the Vandals, a German speaking tribe who ended up in North Africa, have anything to do with modern Latvians.
    as the Vandals are on the baltic sea, I see no reason why they could not have sailed this spit of water ( baltic sea)

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sile View Post
    as the Vandals are on the baltic sea, I see no reason why they could not have sailed this spit of water ( baltic sea)
    You're missing the point. The Vandals wouldn't have contributed to the development of blondism in modern Balts or Scandinavians because they didn't stay in that part of the world. If you're arguing that the Vandals may have been related to the ancestors of modern Balts and Scandinavians, that's a different argument that would justify dragging in just about any ancient population of blonds, but it may not be valid. And it doesn't really account for the high rate of blond hair among modern Balts, who are almost as high in N as they are in R1a. Unless you're arguing that the Vandals were a German speaking tribe that were high in N, and I don't see any proof to support that idea. My point is that blondism isn't dependent on haplotype, and we don't seem to know yet what causes the mutations that cause blondism, so I think it's significant that blondism is most common in northwestern Europe. I just don't know what the significance is, but I think the old arguments about blond hair being either being more likely to be selected for in northern latitudes or being caused by a mutation more likely to occur in more northerly latitudes still seem convincing.

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    I was born with blonde hair, as my father was and a lot of my family. All of our hair turned dark brown close to black when we went through puberty. I always wondered why this happens?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Auld Reekie View Post
    I was born with blonde hair, as my father was and a lot of my family. All of our hair turned dark brown close to black when we went through puberty. I always wondered why this happens?
    It's quite common, but I don't think science has the explanation for it yet. My paternal grandmother had very blonde hair, and my other grandparents had black hair. I had very blonde hair as a child, it darkened to medium brown during puberty, and it later darkened further to dark brown. Simply saying that blond hair is caused by a recessive gene doesn't explain that process, but other people have told me they went through the same cycle of having their hair's natural colour darken over time.

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    I think these changes are rather the rule than the exception. Most European children are born with lighter hair than they will have in adulthood, in my experience. It seems probable to me that it is at least partly a function of the effect of hormonal triggers on the mutated genes involved, as two of the periods of greatest change are puberty, and, for women, pregnancy.

    Eye color changes as well, with many children being born with blue eyes that gradually change color, although the transformation is usually complete relatively quickly.

    Just as an example, both my children were born with blue eyes; my daughter's quickly turned brown, but my son's were blue for almost a year, and then gradually changed to a greenish hazel. My daughter's hair, when it finally came in, (thank goodness for those sticky bows!) was platinum blonde, and it stayed that way until her late teens, when it turned a darkish blonde/light brown, much to her dismay. My son, on the other hand, was born with a full head of black, wavy hair, but it inexplicably turned blonde without a single hair falling out. I've never heard of that with any other child. It then got dark again with puberty. (The result was that the children looked very much like each other when they were little, but not very much like me!)

    So, these pigmentation genes don't seem very stable to me, at least not in a lot of people, although skin color does tend to remain rather constant, in my opinion.
    Last edited by Angela; 03-06-14 at 23:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aberdeen View Post
    You're missing the point. The Vandals wouldn't have contributed to the development of blondism in modern Balts or Scandinavians because they didn't stay in that part of the world. If you're arguing that the Vandals may have been related to the ancestors of modern Balts and Scandinavians, that's a different argument that would justify dragging in just about any ancient population of blonds, but it may not be valid. And it doesn't really account for the high rate of blond hair among modern Balts, who are almost as high in N as they are in R1a. Unless you're arguing that the Vandals were a German speaking tribe that were high in N, and I don't see any proof to support that idea. My point is that blondism isn't dependent on haplotype, and we don't seem to know yet what causes the mutations that cause blondism, so I think it's significant that blondism is most common in northwestern Europe. I just don't know what the significance is, but I think the old arguments about blond hair being either being more likely to be selected for in northern latitudes or being caused by a mutation more likely to occur in more northerly latitudes still seem convincing.
    I have not given my opinion on the vandals, I quoted the book and also the member who states that vandals are swedish in origin.

    IMO, the vandals are a confederation of "east-germanic" tribes ( I have already presented all the tribes once before on this forum ), who where intially stated as wandals, wends and lived to the east of the longobards who are now classified as west-germanic ( they where once classified as east-germanic).

    I agree with all your points, as for HG for Vandals ..........R1a, I1, I2, N with some R1b ..........

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    Quote Originally Posted by Auld Reekie View Post
    I was born with blonde hair, as my father was and a lot of my family. All of our hair turned dark brown close to black when we went through puberty. I always wondered why this happens?
    same as you......my eye brows where also so so blond they could not be visible from 5 metres away.
    I guess they should measure the colour of hair only around years of peoples mid-teens .............which I would not qualify anymore.

    Many Australian aboriginals are also born pure blond and stay like that until about 6 to 9 years of age, then go black

    In regards to eye colour.............it basically sets by when a child is 6 months old

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    I live in an overcast area that rains or snows most of the year. When I'm exposed to the sun for long periods, especially going into saltwater at the beach my hair will lighten up. I'm sure that's true for a lot of people. I've noticed (along with my grey hairs) my hair will turn a slight copper reddish blonde that I've never had.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Auld Reekie View Post
    I live in an overcast area that rains or snows most of the year. When I'm exposed to the sun for long periods, especially going into saltwater at the beach my hair will lighten up. I'm sure that's true for a lot of people. I've noticed (along with my grey hairs) my hair will turn a slight copper reddish blonde that I've never had.
    Pheomelanin, the pigment responsible for a "reddish" tint in hair, breaks down slower than eumelanin. That's why when women with brown hair get "highlights" or bleached strands, the strands come out looking rather reddish, and, unless that's the woman's preference, they have to apply a "toner" to the hair to get rid of the red. The sun (and salt) bleach the hair just as peroxide does. The chlorine in a pool will also do a number on hair...lifeguards who have very fair hair can develop a radioactive sort of green "glow" to their hair if they don't constantly rinse the chlorine out with fresh water.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Auld Reekie View Post
    I was born with blonde hair, as my father was and a lot of my family. All of our hair turned dark brown close to black when we went through puberty. I always wondered why this happens?
    Blondes are known for being dumb so perhaps as you grew older and gained intelligence your hair color changed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Auld Reekie View Post
    I was born with blonde hair, as my father was and a lot of my family. All of our hair turned dark brown close to black when we went through puberty. I always wondered why this happens?
    The same is true for most people in my family. The majority of pre school kids have blonde hair and by the time their in 8th grade a pretty small minority does. The same is also true for Oceania people, many have blonde hair(caused by differnt mutations than west Eurasian blonde hair) as children and all have dark hair by puberty. Everyone's hair probably darkens during puberty, just it is easy to see in blondes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fire Haired14 View Post
    What????!!!!! Vandals had nothing to do with the Andronovo culture just like how English have nothing to do with Russians even though both have high amounts of blonde hair.
    English amount of blonde hair is clearly overstated by internet bookies..

    Its no more than 1 in 10 english people with real blonde hair, past their teens.. And if you talk about pure blonde hair the amount goes to the single digits..

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    I think these changes are rather the rule than the exception. Most European children are born with lighter hair than they will have in adulthood, in my experience. It seems probable to me that it is at least partly a function of the effect of hormonal triggers on the mutated genes involved, as two of the periods of greatest change are puberty, and, for women, pregnancy.

    Eye color changes as well, with many children being born with blue eyes that gradually change color, although the transformation is usually complete relatively quickly.

    Just as an example, both my children were born with blue eyes; my daughter's quickly turned brown, but my son's were blue for almost a year, and then gradually changed to a greenish hazel. My daughter's hair, when it finally came in, (thank goodness for those sticky bows!) was platinum blonde, and it stayed that way until her late teens, when it turned a darkish blonde/light brown, much to her dismay. My son, on the other hand, was born with a full head of black, wavy hair, but it inexplicably turned blonde without a single hair falling out. I've never heard of that with any other child. It then got dark again with puberty. (The result was that the children looked very much like each other when they were little, but not very much like me!)

    So, these pigmentation genes don't seem very stable to me, at least not in a lot of people, although skin color does tend to remain rather constant, in my opinion.
    Fair hair tend to darken with age :

    1. the typical dark blond of Germanics ? Celts and others (not the whitish flaxen blond of West Finns) at 20 years age become regularly a just light brown at the 40 years age, before become grey or white (by the way I observed the red hairs people become white sooner than others a s a rule)
    2. the blondism of children is another thing and depends on other genes I believe (metabolism ones?), than the basic ones which regulate the (partly) steady hair colours : it is something which occurs frequently among animals : the pets have as a rule a different colour from the adults colour – I think I constated the future very dark haired babies are born with already dark hairs (uneasy to observe because very often their rare wet hairs are sticked on their skulls) BUT between birth and one year age these hairs grow lighter before a longer process of darkening unti puberty – this phenomenon was also studied on Czech children some years ago -
      this is a rough observation : in the very dark pigmented Europeans populations, the children become very often brown and not blond – it is possible that the rarest future dark brownish blackish haired adult people who keep blond long enough time in childhood are the ones who carry some recessive blond or fair hairs ? -

    &: when we speak of a « blondperson » or a « dark pigmented person » we speakabout the more visible : the head hairs ; but, maybe bydiverse crossing-overs or for other reasons, all the hairs of thebody are not always of the same colours : we can observe evident« sub-regions » : top head, peri-ears and neckregion and vertical branch of beard, moustaches and the triangleunder the mouths, the remainig beard region (the principal one),eyebrows, limbs, breast/chest , pubis and armpits... the more thecountry people is dark or light haired, the more often thepigmentation is homogenous, but some parts as the pubis and beard area bit more reddish very often too whatever the country – the verymixed pigmented populations show more heterogenous pigmentation onthe individuals -

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