301: “Where’d she get the red hair?”

A sweet moment for a new family.  Claire and Frank are finally connecting, joyful over the birth of Brianna.

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“Where’d she get the red hair?”

Buzzkill.

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The nurse has no malicious intent.  Instead, she likely understands the Mendelian inheritance of red hair.  A child born with red hair carries two copies of the recessive gene for red hair – one from the mother and one from the father.  She of course then assumes that Claire or Frank likely has a redheaded family member they can recall in their line.

Of course, there is much more to the inheritance of hair color, including details of blonde, various browns, and black hair, but for today, lets focus on red.

We now know that the specific gene responsible for red hair is called melanocortin 1 receptor (or MC1R).  Red hair is a recessive trait.  Recalling back to genetics class, this means that for a person to be born with red hair, they must inherit a red hair gene from their mother and one from their father.  If only one red hair gene is inherited, the child will have brown hair and simply be a carrier of the red hair gene.

Could Frank and Claire have a biological child with red hair?  YES!

Setting aside the question of whether Frank Randall is indeed fertile to begin with (we will have to revisit that too!), here is an example showing how Claire and Frank might have a biological child with red hair. R indicates the dominant gene for brown hair and r indicates the recessive gene for red hair.  If each of them is a brown haired person who carries the red hair gene, they will have a 25% chance of their child being a redhead:

Claire and Frank

Indeed, Frank and Claire could have a redheaded biological child, though it would have been much more likely for Jamie and Claire.  Assuming that Claire carries the gene for red hair (and we know she does since we’ve seen Brianna!), each child of Jamie and Claire will have a 50% chance of having red hair.

Claire and Jamie

Frank and Claire had better get used to answering the question of the red hair.  No doubt this is only the first of hundreds of times they will be asked.

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While on the topic of red heads, here are some fun facts:

  • Only 1-2% of the human population has red hair.
  • About 13% of the population of Scotland has red hair, the highest concentration in the world.
  • Redheads are more sensitive to pain!  They require significantly more anesthetic to block pain.  This is thought to be due to the fact that the MC1R gene responsible for red hair also codes for a receptor that is related to a family of receptors involved in pain perception.
  • They are also more sensitive to cold tempeteratures
  • Redheads have a higher risk of skin cancer, specifically melanoma.
  • Redheads are more likely to be left handed than people with other hair colors!
  • Redheads tend not to go grey.  Their hair pigment lightens to blonde and white and avoids grey.
  • People with red hair actually have fewer strands of hair than those with other colors.   However, their red hair is thicker so it appears just as full.

 

So glad to be back in the world of Outlander!  Life has been pretty crazy and this is always a welcome diversion!  What did you think of the Season Three premiere?  I’ve been avoiding previews and teasers so I knew very little going in and loved it.  So excited for what is to come!

season 3

 

All Outlander images property of Starz
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