Genes for Skin Color Rebut Dated Notions of Race, Researchers Say

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By Carl Zimmer

For centuries, skin color has held powerful social meaning — a defining characteristic of race, and a starting point for racism.

“If you ask somebody on the street, ‘What are the main differences between races?,’ they’re going to say skin color,” said Sarah A. Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

On Thursday, Dr. Tishkoff and her colleagues showed this to be a profound error. In the journal Science, the researchers published the first large-scale study of the genetics of skin color in Africans.

The researchers pinpointed eight genetic variants in four narrow regions of the human genome that strongly influence pigmentation — some making skin darker, and others making it lighter.

These genes are shared across the globe, it turns out; one of them, for example, lightens skin in both Europeans and hunter-gatherers in Botswana. The gene variants were present in humanity’s distant ancestors, even before our species evolved in Africa 300,000 years ago.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – For centuries, skin color has held powerful social meaning — a defining characteristic of race, and a starting point for racism.

    The perceptions of biology of most ignorant racists – and white supremacists, is clearly only skin deep!!

    However, the false claims of racism, often arise from religious and cultural clashes – particularly when particular cultures, religions, ideological groups, elite clubs, or organisations, claim preferential treatment at the expense of other members of their local communities. – in such instances as apartheid, or dominating theocracies.

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