Thanks to a series of complex tests, the molecular biologists were able to rule out the chance that the experimental samples containing the variant may have been contaminated with modern human DNA, or were a random result caused by damaged DNA or PCR errors (PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is a method of multiplying DNA). Functional tests then showed that this variant is much less active than the normal human variant. "Gene variants with similarly reduced activity are also known in modern man - although they are a result of other mutations," says Michael Hofreiter. "In people, they lead to red-coloured hair. We can therefore assume that part of the Neanderthal population may have had red or light coloured hair and possibly even lighter coloured skin," according to the paleoanthropologist.
Whether red hair in Neanderthals was considered particularly erotic or more of a turnoff is, of course, something the scientists cannot say.
|Contact: Michael Hofreiter|