The human race may all be under one tribe but it is our physical features that set us the most apart.
The human race is rich in diversity. Not just physical but in customs, beliefs, traditions, etc. Which only makes us all the more fascinating. Never will you run across two different groups of people who share the exact same beliefs, customs, etc.
We’re a complex species.
One thing that, for a very long time, could not be explained was why there were some darker-toned people who had what most considered “Caucasian traits” such as blonde hair and “light” eyes (blue, green).
Up until recently, those with the listed attributes were believed to have European ancestry somewhere down their line. That belief may not be too far-fetched as people with those characteristics generally come from Europe.
But there is a race of people who would turn that entire theory on its head.
Meet the people of Melanesia.
A large part of the Melanesian population has natural blonde hair. Though prevalent in children, some adults’ hair began to darken as they grew older.
Melanesia is a region extending from the western side of the eastern Pacific to the Arafura Sea, north and northeast of Australia. Its countries include Fiji, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and others.
Its name was first given by Jules Dumont d’Urville in 1832. In Greek, it means “black islands.” He classified the peoples of Oceania into four racial groups: Malayans, Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians.
Melanesians settled in what is now known as Melanesia before the African slave trade.
Melanesians used to partake in cannibalism, head-hunting, and slavery but since missionaries have come to the island, their traditions have changed. Now over 90% of the population is Christian.
The Melanesian people of Solomon Island, in particular, are distinguished by their vivid blonde hair.
Some theories suggested their blonde features were from sun and salt whitening, high fish intake, and from relations with Europeans who settled on the island. The latter believed to have caused a gene mutation that resulted in their European features.
To find the answer to the mystery, a geneticist from Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Sean Myles, conducted a genetic survey on 43 blonde islanders and 42 dark-haired islanders.
It turned out that only a single mutation was responsible for half of the islander’s blonde hair. The study found:
“A gene called TYRP1, which resides on the ninth chromosome of human’s 23 pairs of chromosomes, explained 46.4 percent of the variation in the islanders’ hair color.”
TYRP1 is what is partly responsible for the blonde hair and melanin.
This mutation is not the same gene that Europeans with blonde hair carry. It is an entirely different gene. The research not only helped with solving the mystery of blonde hair on the darker-toned Melanesian people, it helps with research all around.
Carlos Bustamante, a professor of genetics at Stanford and also an author of the study, believes that it is dangerous to assume that genome findings from one population will simply transfer to another.
“If we’re going to be designing the next generation of medical treatments using genetic information and we don’t have a really broad spectrum of populations included, you could disproportionately benefit some populations and harm others.”
The Melanesians may be distinguishable in their physical appearance, but they are also rich in culture as well. They have over 1,000 languages!
All in all, this is a very interesting discovery. It not only sheds light on something that has been shrouded in mystery for centuries, it better serves the world as a whole as researchers attempt to fill the void on the histories of different peoples.
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