Gloomy weather responsible for red hair: research

Red hair

Redheads can put their colouring down to the weather, new research has claimed.

Experts believe that Scotland's gloomy climate has seen a deliberate genetic adaptation to help exploit rare sunny days and boost Vitamin D production.

Alastair Moffat, managing director of the Scotland's DNA project, said the country's dull weather was responsible for a larger number of flame-haired men and women being born, the Daily Mail reported.

Only about 1-2 per cent of the world's population has red hair but in Scotland the figure is much higher, with about 13 per cent, or 650,000 people, with flaming locks.

Researchers are investigating how many people carry the red-hair gene and their findings will be used to make a 'ginger' map of the British Isles.

Moffat said he wanted to map the number of possible carriers of the gene in Scotland in a bid to try to explain why so many Scots have red hair.

"I think it's to do with sunshine. We all need Vitamin D from sunshine but Scotland is cloudy. We have an Atlantic climate and we need light skin to get as much vitamin D from the sun as possible," Moffat said.

A person who does not have red hair can still produce red-haired children if their partner is a carrier of the gene. Red hair appears in people with two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16, which causes a mutation.

Despite concerns that red hair could be dying out, experts say that it is likely to continue for many more generations.

According to the Centre for Equality Policy Research think tank, redheads suffer more discrimination per head of population than ethnic minorities do. Only disabled people suffer more.

"Red hair still gives out deep cultural signals," Barbara McNulty, lecturer in psychology at the University of the Western Isles, and herself a redhead, said.

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