Imagine if—a few hundred years from now—a photo of Jessica Chastain appears in history books as an example of a long-lost sector of the human population that had something called … red hair? That might not be as crazy as it sounds: A new report says that if global warming keeps up, redheads might become a thing of the past.
According to a new article published in the U.K.’s Daily Record, scientists are concerned that the increasing sunlight in typically gloomy Scotland will have an effect on the country’s high concentration of redheads (13%, as opposed to 1 to 2% of the rest of the world) since the gene that causes red hair is thought to be an evolutionary response to the lack of sun in Scotland. (The super-fair coloring most redheads have allows them to get the maximum vitamin D from what little sun there is—fascinating, no?)
The Daily Record pointed out that Scotland’s red-haired population could fall dramatically if predictions that the country’s climate is set to become much sunnier are true, and redheads the world over could die out completely in a few centuries.
“We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and the north of England is adaptation to the climate. We do not get enough sun and have to get all the vitamin D we can,” said Dr. Alistair Moffat, of genetic testing company ScotlandsDNA. “If it was to get less cloudy and there was more sun, there would be fewer people carrying the gene.”
It’s pretty interesting to think about hair color being the result of something other than random genes or a good colorist, although we do hope redheads stick around—the last thing we need is for the human population to become even more homogeneous.