Over the past few days, there have been endless whispers in the media of natural redheads being a dying breed, thanks to climate change and the warmer or cooler weather it will bring.
Dr Alistair Moffat, managing director of ScotlandsDNA, said: “We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and in the North of England is adaption to the climate.
“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.
“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.”
It’s enough to make you feel a bit queasy, but don’t fret yourselves.
Sure, new research gathered by ScotlandsDNA may indeed show that the ginger gene first occurred due to an evolutionary response to little sunlight and vitamin D, but now that gingerness is here, it won’t go anywhere without a fight.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again and again: red hair is simple GENETICS, which is not controlled by the weather. Actually, genetics is anything BUT simple, but you catch my drift.
To be scientific, red hair is a genetic trait caused by a series of mutations in the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) on chromosome 16.
This ‘ginger gene’ is recessive, meaning that both parents must be carriers of the MC1R gene for it to become apparent atop people’s heads. This can occur whether both parents have ginger hair or not; they just both need to be carriers of the mutated MC1R protein, and will then have a 25% chance of reproducing a cute ginger bairn.
And, according to genetic tests conducted by BritainsDNA, 36.5% of Scotland are redhead DNA carriers, 34.7% in Ireland, and Wales has a whopping 38% of inhabitants carrying the ginger gene. England also has a hefty potential for red-haired babies with 34.4%.
So that’s a hefty amount of potential redheads. Yes, red hair is rare – only approximately 2% of the world’s population can boast an authentic auburn blaze – but unless every being on planet earth carrying this gene fails to reproduce, red hair will always exist, no matter how much sunlight is around.
And anyway, if climate change does bring hotter temperatures and sunnier skies, this does not equate to a significant increase in UV exposure.
So, if climate change is to inevitably make the northern isles of the UK like the shores of Jamaica, the amount of UV exposure won’t have increased so much that it would affect natural gingers too much, other than perhaps they would need to wear more sunscreen.
And, if the terrible thing happened and skin cancer increased among redheads due to this hotter weather, most skin cancers occur later in life when childbearing years are over so there will be nothing preventing the ginger gene from being carried on through the generations.
Don’t fret my pretties, gingers aren’t going anywhere.