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Climate change could render natural red heads extinct

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:58 AM - Scottish researchers believe that redheads could become one of the latest casualties of climate change.

About 2 percent of the people on Earth are naturally red-headed. In Scotland, approximately 13 percent of the population has red hair.

Numerous stories have popped up in the past suggesting that redheads may be going extinct, largely due to the rarity of the gene, but the recent theory is among the first to link the possible extinction to climate change.

According to The Weather Network's sister network in the UK, the red-headed gene is believed to be an evolutionary response that allows the body to absorb more vitamin D in gloomy weather, not unlike the conditions typically seen in Scotland.

The new theory suggests that warming temperatures could put an end to that response, rendering all (natural) redheads extinct.

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"I think the reason for light skin and red hair is that we do not get enough sun and we have to get all the Vitamin D we can," Dr. Alastair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, told the Daily Mail.

"If the climate is changing and it is to become more cloudy or less cloudy then this will affect the gene ... if it was to get less cloudy and there was more sun, then yes, there would be fewer people carrying the gene."

Some scientists are quick to point out that Scotland's climate would need to change drastically to render all redheads extinct.

"It would be necessary for a complete u-turn of the weather, to the point where people with pale skin, freckles and red hair can no longer survive under the sun’s harsh rays,"  Lilian Hunt, a PhD student looking at human genetic variation at the National Institute for Medical Research, says on The Weather Network's UK site.

"In reality, the ginger trait is likely to become rarer over time, due to normal genetic drift mixed with expansion of the Scottish gene pool, as with any recessive gene mutation.”


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