Disappearing blonde gene

Blond hair is controlled by an allele recessive to most alleles responsible for darker hair, but it is not a disappearing gene

The disappearing blonde gene was a hoax about how a scientific study had estimated that natural blonds would become extinct, repeated as fact in reputable media such as the BBC and The Sunday Times between 2002 and 2006. Claims that blond hair would disappear have been made since 1865. [1] According to the erroneous reports, someone, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), published a report claiming that people with blond hair "will become extinct by 2202".

Neither the WHO nor any reputable expert had issued such a report. Those who commented on the alleged report were asked by the WHO to retract. [2]

The extinction claim is based on a misinterpretation of recessiveness in genetics. In reality, blond genes are positively selected against and so blondeness will not disappear. [3]

In the media

In 2002 BBC News reported that unnamed German experts had concluded that the natural distribution of blond hair would cease within the span of 200 years owing to the genes associated with blond hair being recessive. The article reported the scientists had said that there is a reportedly low number of people carrying the recessive blond allele, especially in nations of mixed heritage (for example, the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia). The dominant alleles ( brown hair, black hair, brown eyes) "overthrow" the recessive genes or metaphorically, endanger them. Subsequently the study was attributed to the World Health Organization. In the BBC article Prof. Jonathan Rees of the University of Edinburgh cast doubt on the story—he was quoted as saying "The frequency of blondes may drop but they won't disappear." [3]

In October 2002 The New York Times reported that the World Health Organization had no knowledge of this study. [4] [5]

In 2006 the hoax was mentioned by The Sunday Times when reporting on the publication of a hypothesis of the origins of blonde hair [6] and La Repubblica: "According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202." It once again traveled quickly across the World Wide Web. [7] The hoax has also been featured on the "Threat-Down" segment of the satirical television show The Colbert Report on March 6, 2006, where Stephen Colbert suggested a selective breeding program to save blonds. [8]