Feeds

Some mammoths had 'ginger gene'

Look out for woolly bullies

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.