A team of Scottish genetic researchers say they have developed a powerful tool to combat the bullying of some redheads in Britain. It comes as the result of research showing that almost four in ten Britons are red-headed gene carriers - they may not be redheads themselves but their future children or grandchilden could be. Jim Drury went to Edinburgh to find out more.IVO - Hollywood has its share of glamorous redheads.....but being flame-haired in Britain isn't always cause for celebration.
'Carrot-top' and 'ginger' are among the catcalls shouted by hecklers in Britain..yet the country is home to proportionately more redheads than any other, and according to geneticists at a group called Scotland's DNA, Brits have a one in three chance of being redheaded gene carriers.
According to Scotland's DNA founder Alistair Moffat, it's not a trait common to northern lattitudes as some have speculated.
"If that was true red hair would be very prevalent in Scandinavia and it's not nearly as prevalent there as it is here and it's because Ireland, Scotland, and England live in an Atlantic climate which is cloudy, and so to get enough Vitamin D absorbed through our system it's good to be red hair, we've evolved well to be redheaded."
The researchers also reject theories that red hair comes from the Neanderthals and say three genetic variants they've uncovered differ from our evolutionary cousins.
But they do go back a long way.
"...There's tryptophan-red, histidine-red, and cysteine-red and two of them are very old, they're 70,000 years old and everybody with cysteine-red or tryptophan-red is descended from a single individual, from the first person to ever have it, probably in west Asia, probably about 70,000 years ago."
And now the researchers want to broaden their research. They want non-redheads to know that they have a one-in-three chance of carrying a gene that will produce a red-headed child or grandchild. That knowledge they believe, could help keep prejudice against redheads at a minimum.
The group has collected 4,000 samples from Britons but customer results executive Sarah Williamswants more people to send in saliva samples to widen the country's genetic footprint.
"They spit and send it to the lab. This is then analysed by our geneticist....and when this is returned to us I can tell them if they are a carrier, a non-carrier, or if they are a redhead, which they probably already know by looking in the mirror."
And within Britain, the greatest proportion of redheads live in Scotland.
ISLA (PRON: ISLE-AH) BEATTIE, FROM SCOTLAND,
"My mother always said it was a blessing to have a redheaded child."
JESSICA TEN DOESSCHATE (PRON: DOOSH-CARTER), HALF-SCOTTISH, HALF DUTCH AMERICAN NATIONAL,
"It does surprise me a little bit, because I haven't seen as many gingers in Scotland as I thought I would, but at the same time my mother has Scottish ancestry and she's a redhead."
JOHN MACDONALD, FROM SCOTLAND,
"My father-in-law has got ginger hair, although he's Australian, and he winds me up regularly that my wife has the ginger gene and we'll have a ginger child. Not that it bothers me in any way. I suppose we'll just have to use more sunscreen."
Some campaigners say anti-redheadness should be classified as a "hate crime'. But Moffat believes that if bullies learn they may be carriers of the gene, they'll be more likely to see redheads in a new light.