How to be a Redhead

How to be a Redhead

S5, Ep 14: Are Redheads With Blue Eyes The Rarest? Is Red Hair Going Extinct? With Guest, Dr. Mark Elgar

July 07, 2023

You might have been asked, "Aren't redheads going extinct?" It's a myth we're here to bust and our guest is Dr. Mark Elgar. We're calling him from Australia where he is a professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Melbourne. He earned his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Cambridge in 1985 and is a member of the Australian Evolution Society. His research focuses on animal behavior and evolutionary biology, specializing in animal mating and social behavior.

As an evolutionary biologist, he is here to explain why redheads are NOT going extinct and why red hair + blue eyes is the rarest combo.

Note: This episode was taped in March when Stephanie was pregnant. You may hear Stephanie talk about being pregnant, and post-pregnancy throughout the different episodes due to pre-recording. Spoiler: Her baby was not born with red hair.

Here are some of the questions we ask him:

1.In layman's terms, what is an evolutionary biologist?

2.After reading the literature you have written about redheads, we thought this applied most to redheads, “Recessive genes can stay hidden for a long time.” So, let's address the myth of "redheads are going extinct." Are we a dying breed or not? Or, are redhead genes always going to be there?

3.There is a big debate in the redhead community. Some say it’s red hair and green eyes that are the rarest. Why are red hair and blue eyes the rarest combination?

4.Is red hair recessive in other mammals like cats and dogs or is it just humans?

5.How can we know what someone's hair color was thousands of years ago without having seen a photograph? Is that something you can figure out from digging up skeletons and testing them, or how does that work?

6.Our audience is obsessed with different shades of red hair. We usually say every shade is different, it’s almost like a unique fingerprint amongst redheads. You said in the article, “Redheads range from strawberry blonde, brownish auburn hair or flaming red tresses..” because the MCR1 gene is also a ‘quantitative trait’ which means that depending on which version of the mutation a person carries, there is variation in the appearance of those who carry the gene. Can you explain more?

7.Are two redheaded parents guaranteed to have a redheaded child?

Articles Mentioned:

Are Redheads With Blue Eyes Really Going Extinct? (University of Melbourne, Article by Dr. Mark Elgar)

Redheads: Will You Go White or Gray?

Daily, we get an array of questions from social media comments, emails, and direct messages. We thought it would be fun to bring these to the How to be a Redhead podcast! We answer 2-4 questions per podcast. Do you want to send in your questions? Email, or DM us on Instagram @HowtobeaRedhead or TikTok @HowtobeaRedhead.

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Produced by: Adrienne + Stephanie Vendetti. Pam Cameron

Edited By: Robert Cummins Film Co.