Irish redheads can thank a lack of sunlight for the look that has made them so distinctive according to new DNA research.
The Sunday Independent newspaper reports that Irish people developed red hair thanks to a lack of sunlight.
The claims are made after research by leading DNA lab IrelandsDNA.
Tests have revealed that one in 10 Irish people has red hair but the paper says it is thought that up to half the population could be carrying the redhead gene even though they are blonde or brunette.
Researchers at the DNA laboratory conducted research into the flame-haired gene and concluded it is so associated with Ireland and Scotland because it is connected to a lack of vitamin D, which is related to the lack of sunlight.
They believe Ireland, Scotland and northern England have the highest concentration of flame-haired people in the world and that the Celtic colouring is genetically programmed to work better in our sun-starved countries.
Helen Moffat, marketing manager at IrelandsDNA, told the paper: “It’s to do with the cloudy climate.
“Scandinavia has perhaps less hours of sunshine but Ireland and Britain are much cloudier so the Vitamin D we get is much lower in comparison to somewhere like Scandinavia where they seem to have more sunshine.
“The fairer you are, the more vitamin D you can absorb. Red hair is associated with fair skin due to the lower melanin concentration and this has advantages as more vitamin D can be absorbed.”
Alastair Moffat, managing director of the genetic research laboratory, told the Sunday Independent that two of the most common redhead gene variants came from just two Asian people 70,000 years ago.
IrelandsDNA focuses on probing people’s heritage and has developed a new test that allows parents to see if they might have red-haired children.
Their hope is that their test will show that many brunette and blondes unknowingly carry the redhead gene and will curb the prejudice and teasing some redheads face.
One in 10 Irish people are redheads with 13 per cent of the population in Scotland and six per cent in England similarly colored.
Outside Europe, only .06 per cent of people are redheaded.
The report says that for a child to have red hair both parents must be carriers but neither of them have to have red hair. Even then there is still only a 25 per cent chance that their offspring will have it.