Studies have shown that our human ancestors most likely had dark hair, dark skin and brown eyes. The researchers looked for genes in the identified DNA regions that might cause lighter hair, skin or eyes.
Below is a list of the genes they concluded might play a role in human pigmentation. As was stated before, the researchers could not say whether these genes are really the key genes. They were selected as the most obvious candidates.
Also, many of the identified regions have a strong association with some traits and a weaker one with other traits. The researchers can't be sure if this is due to one gene having multiple effects. Or multiple genes each having a single effect.
: Scientists already know a lot about this gene (click here
to learn more). Basically people can have different versions of this gene that can lead to fair skin and freckles. Having two copies* of a MC1R gene that is a certain version gives someone red hair along with the freckles and fair skin.
The researchers found no link between changes in the MC1R gene that lead to red hair and any particular eye color. They did find, however, that sometimes changes in this region did lead to blonde instead of brown hair. Because the researchers aren't really looking at the MC1R gene, they can't tell if the reason for this is MC1R or a different gene.
: The region that contains this gene was involved in many traits. OCA2
has long been known as a key gene in determining brown vs. blue and green eyes. However, it probably does not cause green eyes, it just allows for it to happen (click here
to learn more). Here the researchers also discovered that the region that contains OCA2 is involved in determining blonde vs. brown hair as well.
: The region that contains this gene was key in determining green eyes vs. blue as well as blonde hair vs. brown.
: The region that contains this gene was involved in a number of different traits. One version of the gene appears to lead to freckles without fair skin. A different version is involved in green vs. blue eyes although this was not as strong as with the SLC24A4 gene.
(Chromosome 6 region): This DNA region appears to contain a previously unidentified gene involved in freckles and fair skin. It may also be involved in giving brown hair instead of blonde.
: The region that contains this gene was important for distinguishing brown vs. blonde hair.
*We have two copies of most of our genes. And each of these genes comes in different versions. Most of the wonderful diversity around us comes from mixing and matching these different gene versions. The genes identified here are no different.