This new research into skin colour genetics will change everything you thought you knew about race

Mimi Launder
Wednesday 18 October 2017 12:15
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Picture:(iStock/ FatCamera)

Some modern day Nazis like to use the protection of their 'unique genetic heritage' as an euphemism and excuse for their racism.

But when they take DNA tests, they are left bitterly disappointed.

Indigenous Europeans are actually a mishmash of ancient migrations, meaning that the white supremacists who so desperately try to continue their 'pure ancestry' narrative are seriously ill-informed.

In fact, biologically speaking, there is no such thing as race.

It is a social construct, along with all the assumptions we carry with it - varying skin colour is just a result of different hereditary exposure to sunlight.

Now a landmark new study has challenged the idea of race even further.

Humans are all thought to have originated in Africa, but we know surprisingly little about the wide variety of skin tones found there.

Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania, said:

When people think of skin colour in Africa, most would think of darker skin.

But we show that within Africa there is a huge amount of variation, ranging from skin as light as some Asians to the darkest skin on a global level and everything in between. 

The analysis suggests that genetic variants associated with both light and dark pigmentation originated in Africa.

One variant, which is believed to play a role in lighter skin colours, is found in populations across the globe - from Europe to Tanzania, and South Asia to Ethiopia.

The oldest of the eight genetic variants found by the research found was associated with lighter skin, suggesting that moderately pigmented skin evolved first.

Tishkoff explained why this makes sense:

If you were to shave a chimp, it has light pigmentation.

So it makes sense that skin colour in the ancestors of modern humans could have been relatively light. 

It is likely that when we lost the hair covering our bodies and moved from forests to the open savannah, we needed darker skin.

Mutations influencing both light and dark skin have continued to evolve in humans, even within the past few thousand years. 

In short, the history of skin colour is far more complex than we thought.

HT IFLS

More: This map shows what white Europeans associate with race - and it makes for uncomfortable viewing

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