Alexandra D. Owens; Review: The Biology of Skin Color. The Amerihave the right to Biology Teacher 1 April 2016; 78 (4): 356. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2016.78.4.356

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When observing imeras of humale populations around the world, it is challenging not to notification our variance in skin color. This visible range is not regularly seen in various other species and also also sets us acomponent from our primate loved ones. Like many various other traits, skin shade is one that exists as a result of evolution with organic selection. How and why has actually this trait progressed via such variety? What was when an enigma has actually been fixed many thanks to sociology and also genes.

You are watching: The biology of skin color


In HHMI"s newest video, Dr. Nina Jablonski, a Penn State biological anthropologist and also author of Living Color: The Biological and also Social Meaning of Skin Color, takes viewers along on her search to resolve the mystery of skin shade. The journey starts via an explacountry of melanin, which comes in 2 forms: reddish-yellow (i.e., pheomelanin) and also black and also brown (i.e., eumelanin). Eumelanin in certain is responsible for protecting our body from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that penetprices cells, possibly leading to mutations. The narrative even more defines that melanin protects cells by developing supernuclear caps that absorb UV rays, protecting the nucleus.


With this in mind, the film explores the link in between UV intensity and skin shade. Using data gathered by NASA in the 1980s, a map overlay of UV radiation dimensions throughout the world is presented. The outcome illustrates a clear gradient from the equator, through exceptions by altitude and also places via consistent cloud cover. This map is then compared to a map of skin shade based on skin reflectometer dimensions collected by anthropologists researching indigenous populaces. A correlation does indeed exist. Wright here UV radiation is strong, skin is dark, in both equatorial and high-altitude areas. These information suggest that humans adjusted to assorted solar problems over time.


Further evidence gathered with DNA sequencing pertains to the forefront of the film. Geneticist Dr. Rick Kittles defines hereditary marker MC1R, which codes for a protein used in the production of eumelanin. Around the globe, there is variation in this sequence, yet not in African populations where the majority have actually the MC1R allele. Fossil proof suggests this has been present for around 1.2 million years. While reduction of skin cancer is the assumed explacountry for its existence, skin cancer fatalities happen after reproductive age, which would not have an affect on reabundant success. Rather, folate might be the influencing element. Some birth defects are even more widespread in pregnant womales through a deficiency in folate, and also solid sunlight breaks dvery own this nutrient as it circulates in blood vessels of the skin. This would make melanin influential in reproductive success.


This leaves the question: Why aren"t we all dark skinned if melanin gives an advantage? The answer lies in the migrations of populations. While UV is harmful, UVB – a kind of UV – is instrumental for the synthesis of vitamin D. Close to the equator, people get even more than enough UV expocertain for vitamin D synthesis to take place, also with dark skin. Yet, as populations relocate north, UV exposure decreases. It is even more difficult to absorb UVB in these areas. Selective pressure for MC1R lessens and also variation occurs as a result. Supporting evidence is checked out in polar aboriginal populaces that still have dark skin however likewise have a diet wealthy in vitamin D. While we must defend ourselves from UV, tbelow is still a advantage from absorption, bring about a balancing act driving skin pigment variation. Today, with the capability to live in a variety of settings, this might expect cultural adaptations such as vitamin supplements. As her quest pertains to an end, Dr. Jablonski mirrors that skin shade is a functional trait that transforms over time – one that is inherited separately of any kind of other trait.

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This video would be an excellent enhancement to any type of unit on development, adaptation, or genetic variation. It is very engaging and adds individual relevance that is regularly absent from these topics of instruction. HHMI gives additional sources for both the teacher and the student. The film overview consists of background information, conversation inquiries, and also a created assessment via vital. Student resources consisted of interenergetic and typical animations that support the scientific research content extended in the video, each about 3 minutes in size. The item I found a lot of helpful was the task “Human Skin Color: Evidence for Selection.” Here you will certainly find a series of situation studies based upon the video. Each instance study offers actual information in the develop of charts, graphs, and also other visuals that students can analyze and translate. This enables for application of skills while still engaging your classroom. Visit the webwebsite to learn even more around just how this video might connect through your middle college, high school, or college course.


REMY DOU taught high institution life science for eight years prior to becoming an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. He now works as a Graduate Assistant at Florida International University contributing to STEM education and learning study. For column queries: rdou002

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