Scientists managed to find the first redheads in history: why the discovery is special

Yulia PoteriankoNews
The pigment that makes people red-haired was found in the fossils of prehistoric dubs

Red hair has always attracted special attention, but scientists still did not know for sure when and where the pigment pheomelanin, responsible for this color, came from in nature. And now the new discovery has determined the approximate age of its appearance - 10 million years ago. That is, long before the emergence of humans.

Indeed, the oldest known carrier of this pigment was prehistoric frogs, whose remains were carefully studied by paleontologists from University College Cork. They published their research in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communication.

The researchers' work is called a breakthrough in the field of molecular analysis of fossils, as it will help to learn more about the true color of extinct species. At the same time, it will help to understand the nature of the evolution of pigmentation in living things. In particular, this was emphasized by Professor Tiffany Slater of the UCC School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) and the Environmental Research Institute (ERI). Her colleague Maria McNamara noted that fossils may indeed contain traces of biomolecules that can be detected using modern research methods.

Pheomelanin is one of two forms of melanin found in vertebrates. The other form is eumelanin. It is responsible for the black-brown color of the coat, skin, and retina. In addition, it has several useful functions for the body. For example, it protects cells from ultraviolet radiation.

On the contrary, pheomelanin becomes phototoxic under the influence of sunlight and can exacerbate the processes associated with DNA damage caused by the sun. To date, it is still not clear why this pigment arose and how it has become entrenched in many species of living organisms. For example, about 2% of people have naturally red hair, but this trait is not disappearing from the population. Scientists hope that the recent discovery will bring them closer to unlocking the mystery of the red color.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL reported that scientists have drawn up a map of the spread of the feeling of love in the human body.

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