The gene which gives dark-skinned inhabitants of the Solomon Islands their distinctive blond hair has been identified by scientists for the first time. Skin and hair colour is mostly inherited from our parents but whole populations have evolved to share certain traits. People living closer to the equator having darker skin and hair colour to protect against the Sun. The exception is found in the Solomon Islands, an archipelago east of Papua New Guinea which has the highest proportion of natural blonds outside of Europe despite being just south of the equator. Although the indigenous Melanesian population possess the darkest skin outside of Africa, between five and ten per cent also have bright blond hair. Now researchers from Bristol University have identified the single genetic mutation that causes the islanders to have such contrasting pigmentation of their skin and hair. In a study published in the Science journal, scientists took DNA samples from 85 islanders and identified the variation which caused a difference in the cells responsible for dark pigmentation. Because the gene is not found in Europeans the findings mean the genetic trait could not have been introduced by western explorers and suggest the characteristic arose independently in the region. Dr Nic Timpson, one of the leaders of the project, said: “Naturally blond hair is a surprisingly unusual trait in humans which is typically associated with people from Scandinavian and Northern European countries. “Whether this genetic variation is due to evolution or a recent introgression (the introduction of a new gene from another population) requires further investigation, but this variant explains over 45 per cent of the variance in hair colour in the Solomons.” ( By Nick Collins from Telegraph.co.uk ) Watch also the YouTube video below.