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Q: genetics in the ice age...pleistecene ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: genetics in the ice age...pleistecene
Category: Science > Social Sciences
Asked by: jaybo-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 17 Jul 2003 06:39 PDT
Expires: 16 Aug 2003 06:39 PDT
Question ID: 231974
I am writing a fan fic on the site.  I need to know if it is
genetically possible that a pre historic black man and a prehistoric
white woman with red hair produce a dark skinned child with red hair?
Subject: Re: genetics in the ice age...pleistecene
Answered By: kutsavi-ga on 08 Aug 2003 15:24 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hey there Jaybo, 

Apparently the answer to your answer is a qualified "yes," the child
you have in mind MIGHT have been a genetic result of the given
parents.  First of all, the first red heads to roam the earth are
thought to have appeared around 50,000 years ago, and the Pleistocene
Epoch lasted from about 1.8 million years ago to around 8,000 years
ago, according to the US Geologic Survey:

Specifically regarding red headed progeny, I found this *very*
interesting article on the subject, (It's in PDF and requires the free
Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it):

Quoting from the article:

"Several years ago, [it was]discovered that the melanocortin 1
receptor, a protein encoded by a gene previously discovered in mice,
was responsible for the production of red hair in humans. Everybody
has two copies of this gene but there are slight changes in the gene
that are very common in European populations. If you have one of about
four or five common changes in this gene and, one of these changes are
found on both of your chromosomes, then you are likely to have red
hair. A little bit of basic genetics; you have two copies of every
gene, you inherit one from your mother and one from your father. If
both of these genes are different, with respect to the changes that
might lead to red hair, then you will have red hair. If however you
only have one change, you have an increased chance of having red hair
but it is not certain that you will have red hair."

So, since everyone has copies of this gene, it seems logical that a
mating pair, one of whom was a fair-skinned red head, presumably from
Europe, could quite possibly produce a dark-skinned red headed child. 
The article quoted above also has three references cited for more
information on the genetics of red hair:

Rees,J.L. (2000). The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R): more than just
red hair. Pigment Cell Res. 13, 135-140.

Ha, T and Rees, J. L. (2001) The melanocortin 1 receptor: what's red
got to do with it? Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology ..
45; 961-964

Rees,J.L. (2000). The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R): more than just
red hair. Pigment Cell Res. 13, 135-140

So in closing, I would say that the chance of your described offspring
being born is high, however the chance of a fair-skinned European
finding her way to Africa or a black man finding his way to Europe
during the Pleistocene might be a little low, but who knows?  That's
what fantasy fiction is all about!  And of course they could always
have met somewhere in the middle ;-)

A quick note, I just found an interesting article titled "Albinism in
Africa and human pigmentation genetics" which has a lot to say about
red heads from Europe in a general sort of fashion.  There are several
more articles on the page dealing with heredity and genetics in
Africa.  Here's the URL:

If you need further clarification, please don't hesitate to click on
the "Request Clarification" button.  Thanks for an interesting
question and good luck on the story!



genetics red hair
origin red hair
pleistocene epoch
usgs geologic time scale
jaybo-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $3.00

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