Scotland’s notoriously bad weather appears to be behind why more of the country’s population appeared to be blessed with ginger hair, new research has claimed.
Figures show that almost one in 10 (eight per cent) Scottish and Irish people have ginger hair including actor Ewan McGregor.
The non scientific research found that in areas where the temperatures in summer were cooler and winter days were shorter – such as in Scotland – people with ginger hair were more likely to survive and evolve.
This was compared to people with the trait living in places with hot temperatures, such as Africa where humans are thought to have evolved, where people with a ginger hair genetic strain were more likely die.
Emily Pritchard, a 26 year-old University of Edinburgh genetics student, made the link to Scottish people, after writing a story for the university’s magazine about her sister’s red hair.
It could offer up a reason why more people in Scotland appeared to have ginger hair than elsewhere throughout Europe.
It was based on previous research that found humans who had evolved in Africa, who had the less than beneficial genetic trait, were more likely to develop skin cancer from sunburn because of their fair skin.
While human beings probably developed on the African continent between one and two million years ago, red hair only starting appearing in the race once humans starting settling in cooler European climates, as recently as 20,000 years ago.
As small tribes began to move throughout Europe to places with cooler summer days and longer winters, this small gene pool meant people with red hair were able to better survive local environments.
The PhD student from the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the Western General Hospital, admitted her research “was speculation rather than scientific study, but it is plausible”.
“The smaller your sample the more likely something rare is going to happen,” she told The Times.
“The Celts, by chance, had a high frequency of the ginger mutation, which was able to persist over time.”
Some of the more famous Scottish exports with red hair include Ewan McGregor, the actor, Billy Bremner, the footballer, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader, Shirley Manson, the singer and even Willie, the angry groundskeeper from The Simpsons television programme.
Figures show that almost one in 10 (eight per cent) Scottish and Irish people have ginger hair, compared to between one and two per cent for the rest of the European population.
Her next piece of research will be to investigate shampoo.
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