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Blue Eyes Originated from a Single Ancestor Thousands of Years Ago

ANNA LEMIND:

We so often take for granted the colour of our eyes. Whether our eyes are brown, blue or green, we see this as a cosmetic difference and nothing more. We just assume that those with blue eyes have always been around and populated the world as densely as those with other eye colours. Basically, we just take it for granted. But have you ever wondered why our eyes have different colours?

It may surprise you to know that the human race all started out with the same eye colour, brown. The differences in eye colour came from variances, and in some extremes, such as the colour blue, a single mutation was involved.

According to a studyeveryone with blue eyes has the exact same ancestor from over 7 thousand years ago, who was born somewhere in the black sea region with the mutation.

Professor Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen states, “A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a “switch,” which literally “turned off” the ability to produce brown eyes.”

Professor Eiberg, through exhaustive study from the year 1996, traveled to areas of the world like Turkey, Jordan and Denmark, to study the eye colour blue. Through this study of the mitochondrial DNA, the professor discovered the location of the gene for eye colour.

The OCA2 gene is programmed to produce melanin, which is responsible for hair and skin colour, as well as eye colour. The “switch” is located adjacent to the OCA2 gene and actually only inhibits the melanin producing abilities to a small extent, thus creating the blue eyes instead of an area completely void of melanin.

When melanin is completely absent, the human being experiences albino characteristics.

Taking a closer look at this process enables us to understand why the eye colour blue is derived from one ancestor. Since this eye colour comes from an exact variance in melanin, it is considered to be a marker passed from a single ancestor. In individuals with green or hazel eyes, the colour variances are more random in change and cannot be pinned down to a single occurrence.

The eye colour blue did indeed originate from one genetic mutation. However, there are no indications that the differences in our eye colour have anything to do with our health or performance in life. In the past, these genes played no part in our ability to survive, unless it was derived from fear or dislike by others.

No matter what our blue-eyed ancestor had to endure, it is clear that the mutation survived and proves just how incredible nature is at shuffling our genes to create something entirely different, and just as beautiful.

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5 COMMENTS

    • I was reading somewhere that Neanderthals evolved their own red hair independently. Which if true could mean the idea of red hair having a common ancestor in homo sapiens could be changed in the future, given they keep changing the percentages of Neanderthal genes in the modern human population (and distribution). IOW, perhaps a second (independent) ancestor from the Neanderthal line gave rise to red hair. This is just speculation of course.

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  1. Their was a similar study done in Iceland trying find out if cancer could be hereditary. I cannot remember the type of cancer involved but it was very common in Iceland and because the Icelanders were taught their family tree as part of their culture the researchers thought it presented a good opportunity to prove or disprove their theory.
    The result was they found that those who got this cancer could all have the family links traced back to one guy in about the 10th century. So they concluded that the predisposition of getting cancer could be inherited.

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