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  • 52


     
    Why Do Europeans Have So Many Hair and Eye Colors?
    Race; Posted on: 2009-04-08 15:54:58 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    by Peter Frost

    Most humans have only one hair color and one eye color. Europeans are a big exception: their hair is black but also brown, flaxen, golden, or red; their eyes are brown but also blue, gray, hazel, or green. This diversity reaches a maximum in an area centered on the East Baltic and covering northern and eastern Europe. If we move outward, to the south and east, we see a rapid return to the human norm: hair becomes uniformly black and eyes uniformly brown.

    Why this color diversity? And why only in Europe? Some believe it to be a side effect of natural selection for fairer skin to ensure enough vitamin D at northern latitudes. Yet skin color is weakly influenced by the different alleles for hair color or eye color, apart from the ones for red hair or blue eyes. Some have no effect at all on skin pigmentation (Duffy et al. 2004; Sturm and Frudakis 2004).



    [snip]

    But why do we see more of this color diversity in Europe than elsewhere? Perhaps because sexual selection was stronger in ancestral Europeans, particularly during the long period when they lived from hunting and gathering.

    Among contemporary hunter-gatherers, the ratio of single men to single women is most unequal in "steppe-tundra" environments where almost all consumable biomass is in the form of highly mobile and spatially concentrated herbivores such as caribou, reindeer, or muskox. On the one hand, men die younger because of the distances they must cover in search of herds, with no alternate food sources. On the other, men are less polygynous because they bear almost the full cost of feeding their families in a habitat that offers women little opportunity for food gathering. With fewer men altogether and even fewer polygynous ones, women have to compete for a limited supply of potential husbands. They are thus under stronger sexual selection.

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    News Source: globetrotter.net

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