Feeds

Some mammoths had 'ginger gene'

Look out for woolly bullies

Build a business case: developing custom apps

MouseAncient DNA has revealed some woolly mammoths had ginger or blonde hair thanks to the mutant gene which causes fair hair in humans.

Reporting in Science, researchers at the University of Leipzig extracted fragile fragments of mammoth DNA from a sample taken from a 43,000-year-old bone found in Siberia.

The team was able to amplify the melanocortin type 1 gene (Mc1r), which encodes a receptor protein that is key to determining hair colour. As well as being responsible for many a playground jibe, mutation of the gene causes the distinctive ginger hair of Highland Cattle.

The mammoth Mc1r sequences revealed three positions along the gene where individuals varied. Altered versions of the protein can have reduced activity, which causes pigmentation differences in hair.

To test if the mutations would have caused this, scientists inserted mammoth genes into bacteria to to produce both the fully functional and partially functional proteins.

They found that changes at one of the three variable positions would indeed have had reduced activity, so individuals carrying the mutation would likely have had lighter or ginger hair instead of the standard issue dark coat.

A companion paper from researchers at UC San Diego revealed a similar mutation in exactly the same position as one of the mammoth DNA changes, this time in beach mice (pictured). In their case, the prevalence of fair hair is likely to be adaptive; lighter colouring provides them better camouflage.

It's less likely that being blond or ginger gave mammoths any advantage or disadvantage - at around eight tons they would have been pretty easy to spot whatever their hair-do. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.