In Britain, redheads are known as “gingers” and are often treated as second-class citizens. The news that some Neanderthals may have been redheads probably won’t help.

When a team of European research scientists looked at DNA samples from two Neanderthal specimens, they found a gene that affects the body’s production of melanin, resulting in red hair and pale skin. The finding is reported in the forthcoming issue of the journal Science. The scientists say that the Neanderthal gene sequence is different from the sequence in modern humans that produces red hair, so they probably arose separately.

Although some people have theorized that modern redheads are descended from Neanderthals, scientists disagree about whether there was any interbreeding between Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern man. They coexisted for many years, but Neanderthals disappeared from Europe more than 24,000 years ago.—Dawn Stover

_Image: Michael Hofreiter and Kurt Fiusterweier/MPG EVA___