Mysterious origin of Solomon Islands’ dark-skinned blonds revealed

Researchers have discovered a single gene that caused inhabitants of the Solomon Islands to have the unique combination of very dark skin and very blond hair.

On Thursday, the journal Science reported that a single gene mutation is responsible for the unique pairing. Perhaps most interesting, the findings debunk theories that residents of the Solomon Islands got their blond hair from intermarrying with European explorers.

"[T]he human characteristic of blond hair arose independently in equatorial Oceania," study researcher Eimear Kenny said in a statement. "That's quite unexpected and fascinating."

Kenny and fellow researcher Sean Myles gathered saliva samples from 43 blond-haired children and 42 dark-haired children on the island to compare their genes. Myles said the frequency of blond hair is comparable to the numbers found in Europe.

"They have this very dark skin and bright blond hair. It was mind-blowing," Myles said in a statement. "As a geneticist on the beach watching the kids playing, you count up the frequency of kids with blond hair, and say, 'Wow, it's 5 to 10 percent.'"

The findings are reportedly a bit of an anomaly, as it is rare for a single physical trait to be traced back to one gene change, according to Live Science.

Outside of the Solomon Islands, there was a brief fad in the 1990s, where already famous personalities like actor Wesley Snipes and former NBA star Dennis Rodman briefly dyed their hair blond.

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