The Heredity Characteristics of Red Hair

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Red hair has long been associated with fiery tempers and lustful behavior. Beyond the myths, the one reality is that redheadedness is relatively rare. However, the nature of the trait is such that red hair can pop up in a family when it’s not expected. This can lead many parents to wonder whether any of their offspring will possess this unique trait. The ancestry firm BritainsDNA offers help to parents who want to address this issue.

The Rarity of Red Hair

Less than 1 percent of the world’s population has red hair, which means that the trait appears only once in approximately 200 individuals. However, this figure varies greatly in different parts of the world. About 10 percent of the Irish population has red hair. The percentage is slightly higher in Scotland and slightly lower in England, while across the Atlantic in the U.S., only about 2 percent of the population has naturally red hair.

The rarity of red hair can be explained by the fact that the trait is considered recessive. Redheadedness appears in individuals who have two copies of the recessive gene, designated MC1R, which is in one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in the human body. This condition in turn creates changes in one of the proteins that makes up the gene. In the event that the changes take place in both chromosomes, the child will have red hair. This is known as an autosomal method of inheritance and can result in a redheaded child being born to parents who do not have red hair.
The manner in which it is carried means that even if both parents have the gene, there is only a one in four chance that their first child will have red hair. The trait can thus be carried over generations before a couple has a child who is a redhead. Although the birth of a redheaded child may come as a surprise to the couple, the trait was in fact lurking in its own recessive nature and waiting for the right time to appear.

Carrying the Redhead Gene

Without a careful review of the genealogy of a family, the “ginger gene” that causes red hair may not be obvious. A simple saliva test conducted by BritainsDNA can help determine whether the gene exists in a family. This will indicate whether any offspring can expect to have any one of the three principal variants of red hair.

The “redness” of red hair can range from a deep burgundy shade to something resembling bright copper. The basis of the redness is the pigment pheomelanin, which also accounts for the fair skin and freckles that often accompany red hair.

Parents usually want to know as much as possible about the health and appearance of their children. DNA is also used in paternity tests UK to determine one’s parenthood status. Anyone who may ask how do I do a paternity test or who has questions on related issues can turn to BritainsDNA for answers.

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