Monday, August 31, 2009

Light-Colored Skin a Recent Trait

The Times Online is reporting research that strongly suggests that light-colored skin, characteristic of northern Europeans, is a recent genetic trait. Jonathan Leake writes:

Johan Moan, of the Institute of Physics at the University of Oslo, said in a research paper: “In England, from 5,500-5,200 years ago the food changed rapidly away from fish as an important food source. This led to a rapid development of ... light skin.”

Moan, who worked with Richard Setlow, a biophysicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state, said vitamin D deficiency could be lethal. Research links it with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and reduced immunity.

Their research says: “Cold climates and high latitudes would speed up the need for skin lightening. Agricultural food was an insufficient source of vitamin D, and solar radiation was too low to produce enough vitamin D in dark skin.”

Conventional wisdom is that the recent light pigments appeared in the last 20 to 30 ky, so this moves the evolution of light pigmentation up considerably.

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