…these results point to the importance of several genes in shaping the pigmentation phenotype and a complex evolutionary history involving strong selection. Polymorphisms in two genes, ASIP and OCA2, may play a shared role in shaping light and dark pigmentation across the globe while SLC24A5, MATP, and TYR have a predominant role in the evolution of light skin in Europeans but not in East Asians. These findings support a case for the recent convergent evolution of a lighter pigmentation phenotype in Europeans and East Asians.
Related: A post on SLC24A5 and one on OCA2. Earlier commentary on the lead author’s work (a correction from her). Convergent evolution on skin color.
Skin color is a very salient trait, we notice it pretty easily. So I believe it is a very good thing in terms of public understanding of the postgenomic era that this character is now being elucidated on a fine grained scale. Within 5-10 years I predict this will be a rather uninteresting trait because we’ll have a good grip on 95% of the variation between and within populations.
Addendum: After I initially drafted this post I found this paper which isolates the DCT locus as implicated in light skin in East Asias, but not Europeans. The science here is pretty fast, loci build up as I write!