Why are different races correlated with two different types of earwax, and when did this divergence occur? | The Straight Dope | Chicago Reader

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Why are different races correlated with two different types of earwax, and when did this divergence occur?

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One type is the yellow-brown sticky kind called wet earwax.
  • One type is the yellow-brown sticky kind called wet earwax.

Q: According to Science News, “If you would describe yourself as white or black, your earwax is probably yellow and sticky. If you are East Asian or Native American, it’s likely to be dry and white.” Is there DNA or other evidence available to show when this difference arose?
—am77494, via the Straight Dope Message Board

Cecil responds:

A: If you’d asked this question not too many years ago, AM, I couldn’t have told you much: we’ve long known there are two types of earwax without knowing a ton more about it. These are, however, heady times for earwax enthusiasts, as researchers continue to dig out unexpected insights about this lowly substance. As one organic chemist recently put it, we’re at “the beginning of exploring a new and interesting biofluid secretion that has not been looked at in this manner.” And you thought the future was in self-driving cars.

It’s been understood for a while that the consistency of one’s earwax is a genetic trait, distributed ethnogeographically, as your quote describes. Nearly everyone of African descent and most people of European descent have the yellow-brown, sticky kind, called wet earwax; the dry, pale, crumbly kind prevails in East Asia; in between, in Central and South Asia, both types are common.

Read the rest at straightdope.com.

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