Tuesday, 7 April 2015
New Study Claims Europeans Were Dark-Skinned Until 8,000 Years Ago
Now genetic research has revealed that ancient European populations were dark skinned for far longer than had originally been thought.
Rather than lightening as early humans migrated north from Africa around 40,000 years ago due to lower levels of sunlight, these first Homo sapiens retained their dark skin colour.
Genetic analysis has shown that hunter gatherers living in Spain up to 8,500 years ago still had dark skin.
DNA analysis obtained from ancient human remains has shown that as these farmers bred with the dark skinned hunter gatherers, one of these genes became prevalent in the European population and European's skin colour began to lighten.
Around 5,800 years ago the second gene, which makes skin colour lighter still, also began to spread though the European population.
The first Europeans looked dramatically different to most of the fair skinned people that live there today.
While the western hunter-gatherers of central and southern Europe largely have the ancestral allele at the two major European skin pigmentation loci, the closely related Scandinavian hunter-gatherers have both the derived alleles contributing to light skin pigmentation at high frequency.
The researchers found five genes associated with changes in diet, body size and skin pigmentation that underwent natural selection in the past 8,000 years.
Two of the genes were associated with producing light skin - SLC24A5 and SLC45A2.
In the remains of hunter gatherers that had lived in Motala 7,700 years ago, they carried both variants of SLC24A5 and SLC45A2 that produced lighter skin.
These gene is known to account for between 25-40 per cent of the skin tone lightening in Europeans.
Around 5,800 years ago the gene variant for SLC45A1 then becomes prevalent, lightening skin colour further.