Known as SLC24A5, the gene mutation plays a key role in the development of lighter skin and is responsible for the skin color differences between Europeans and Africans. The researchers said that their findings prove that cultural and linguistic traits also play a part in skin tone variation across the Indian sub-continent.
The gene mutation was more prevalent among Indo-European speaking groups found mostly in the north-western part of the country, along with those who migrated to from north to south, which shows that the mutation has a common origin between Europeans and Indians. The study has been published in the journal PLoS Genetics.
"In India, this genetic variant doesn't just follow a 'classical' theory of natural selection - that it's lower in the south where darker skin protects against fiercer sunlight. The distribution of the SLC24A5 genetic variant in India follows patterns very much influenced by population. Understanding the genetic architecture behind the remarkable skin color variation found today in the populations of India has the potential to shed light on the wider mechanisms responsible for creating diversity throughout human evolution", lead researcher Mircea Iliescu, from Cambridge University, said.