If you thought that blonde hair is only common in Caucasians, you’re not entirely correct- it’s also common in Melanesians who live at the Solomon Islands and have dark skin tone, yet a light hair.
They have migrated in the South Pacific several thousands of years ago. Melanesia extends from the west of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea and all the way to the east to Fiji.
Melanesia & the Melanesian People
The first one who named Melanesia was Jules Dumont d’Urville in 1832 and it was a description of a geographical and ethnic island group which differs from Micronesia and Polynesia.
More than 90 percent of Melanesians live in rural places and have even practiced cannibalism until recently. Kindnapping, slavery, and head-hunting were also once part of their culture. The influence from Europe is noticeable and most of the locals are Christians.
Nowadays, they speak more than 1000 languages, including creole and pidgins. They’ve learned it through trade and socializing prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
The Unusual Physical Appearance of the Melanesians
Melanesian people are known to have dark skin and light, blonde hair. They have the darkest skin outside of Africa, but 5 to 10 percent of them have light hair.
This light hair, according to some experts, may be a result of their diets abundant in fish or because of the salt and sun. However, others claim it’s nothing more than genetics and a trait which was passed onto them by Europeans.
According to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine, the blonde hair of Melanesians is a consequence of homegrown genetic variant which differs from the gene that gives Europeans a blonde hair.
Carlos Bustamante, co-senior author of the study and professor of genetics at Stanford emphasizes that most studies in genetics include Europeans so there may be a biased view of the genes and mutations that affect the researched traits.
Their goal through the study was to see if these people’s most striking feature, i.e. their light hair, had same or distinct genetic underpinning in distinct populations of humans.
How Was the Study Conducted?
Part of the research team travelled to the Solomon Islands. Their research was approved by the local chief and the team recruited participants. They checked their skin color and hair color with a light reflectant meter.
They also measured their blood pressure, height, and weight. They took saliva samples in order to have DNA.
They used the 1209 collected samples for the genetic analysis. A postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Bustamante, Eimer Kenny, began the analysis back in 2010.
In a week or so, they had primary results. They were striking because they pointed to a single gene. Namely, Melanesians have a native gene known as TYRP1 which is what provides them with melanin and their blond hair.
And, it’s not the same as in Caucasians as they don’t have it in their genes.
Does their Hair Remain Blonde throughout Life?
Though it may look amazing, most of these people’s blond hair darkens as they grow.
So, this is a recessive gene. This finding is an example of convergent evolution. Regardless, words can’t describe the unique beauty of Melanesians, that’s for sure.
If you want to see how these people look like, check out the following photos: