GINGERS could become extinct as a result of increasingly sunny skies above Scotland, according to experts.
The gene that causes red hair is thought to be an evolutionary response to cloudy skies north of the border and allows inhabitants to get as much Vitamin D as possible.
But if predictions of rising temperatures and blazing sunshine turn out to be correct, it could spell doom for carrot tops within a few centuries.
Last year it was revealed that red-headed individuals are 100 times more susceptible to developing melanoma, the deadly skin cancer which claims more than 2,000 lives a year in the UK.
A particular gene mutation that colours red hair and gives pale skin leaved DNA in skin cells more prone to be damaged by sunlight.
Dr Alistair Moffat, managing director of Galashiels-based ScotlandsDNA, said of the hypothesis: “We think red hair in Scotland, Ireland and in the North of England is adaption to the climate.
“I think the reason for light skin and red hair is that we do not get enough sun and we have to get all the Vitamin D we can.”
He added: “If the climate is changing and it is to become more cloudy or less cloudy then this will affect the gene.
“If it was to get less cloudy and there was more sun, then yes, there would be fewer people carrying the gene.”
Another leading scientist, who asked not to be named because of the theoretical nature of the work, said: “I think the regressive gene is slowly dying out.
“Climate change could see a decline in the number of people with red hair in Scotland.
“It would take many hundreds of years for this to happen.
“Red hair and blue eyes are not adapted to a warm climate.
“It is just a theory but the recessive gene may likely be lost. The recessive gene could be in danger. ”
Only 1-2 per cent of the world’s population has red hair, but in Scotland this figure is about 13 per cent, with 650,000 people believed to have ginger hair.
A study last year revealed that up to 40 per cent of the Scottish population are thought to carry the gene for both red hair and fair skin.
Edinburgh and the surrounding area was found to be the hot spot for the ginger gene with 40 per cent of the population believed to be carriers, while only 29 per cent of those in the North and West are believed to have the gene.
If both parents carry the recessive gene there is a 25 per cent chance that their child will be born with red hair.