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Audra A. Kramer
Teaching Assistant
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Marquette University
Dark Skin, Blond Hair: Surprise in the Solomon Islands

This interrupted case is based on a genome wide association study (GWAS) that identified the genetic variation causing some inhabitants of the Solomon Islands to have blond hair. The case illustrates the connection between genotype and phenotype, and an application of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. The narrative focusses on John and his new roommate, Peter, from the Solomon Islands who happens to have dark skin and blond hair. Using thought-provoking questions students learn about the genetics and the biochemistry of the hair color trait and how a single genetic variation can influence phenotype. Is migration or mutation involved?  Upon completion of the activity students will know the source of the genetic variation that causes the blond hair phenomenon in the Solomon Islands and if it has any European origins. The case was written for an upper-level genetics course, but could also be adapted for introductory biology or for a genetics course for non-majors. An optional PowerPoint presentation with clicker questions is available for download from within the Answer Key.