Some Fun Facts about Eye Color

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You probably knew that brown is the most common eye color worldwide, but did you know that green is by far the rarest? In fact, less than 2 percent of the global population possesses green eyes. As a country, Turkey has the highest percentage of citizens who have green eyes, at 20 percent. There are a number of countries – generally located in Asia, South America, and the Middle East – where green eyes are almost completely absent among the population.
Did you know that blue eyes are the most common eye color for Caucasians, over amber, hazel, grey, and green? In fact, over 80 percent of the population of Iceland has either blue or green eyes.
A not-so-common, but very noticeable condition called heterochromia can result in people having eyes of different colors. Actress Mila Kunis, of That 70’s Show and Family Guy fame, for instance, has one blue eye and one green eye. Kate Bosworth, from Blue Crush and the new Superman, has blue eyes, with a hazel blotch at the bottom of her right eye. David Bowie, of Ziggy Stardust and Labyrinth lore, is perhaps the most well-known celebrity with mismatched eye colors. Most people don’t know that Bowie’s condition is the result of a traumatic soccer injury suffered as a teenager, and not heterochromia.

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Question: Why Are Babies Born With Blue Eyes?

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Answer: You inherit your eye color from your parents, but no matter what the color is now, it may have been blue when you were born. Why? Melanin, the brown pigment molecule that colors your skin, hair, and eyes, hadn't been fully deposited in the irises of your eyes or darkened by exposure to ultraviolet light. The iris is the colored part of the eye that controls the amount of light that is allowed to enter. Some other animals are born with blue eyes, too, such as kittens.

Melanin is a protein. Like other proteins, the amount and type you get is coded in your genes. Irises containing a large amount of melanin appear black or brown. Less melanin produces green, gray, or light brown eyes. If your eyes contain very small amounts of melanin, they will appear blue or light gray. People with albinism have no melanin in their irises and their eyes may appear pink because the blood vessels in the back of their eyes reflect light.

Melanin production generally increases during the first year of a baby's life, leading to a deepening of eye color. The color is often stable by about 6 months of age. However, several factors can affect eye color, including use of certain medications and environmental factors. Some people experience changes in eye color over the course of their lives. People can have eyes of two colors. Even the genetics of eye color inheritance isn't as cut-and-dried as was once thought, as blue-eyed parents have been known (rarely) to have a brown-eyed child!

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What Color Will My Baby’s Eyes Be?

By Robin Chang

Published on January 04, 2008

Eye color is a fascinating topic that mystified researchers for centuries until science provided us with a better understanding of eye color and how it is inherited. When it comes to predicting a baby’s eye color, one can almost be sure the baby will be born with blue eyes. Newborns often have blue eyes, which generally darken with increased exposure to sunlight. By the age of three, a child’s eyes will usually settle into their permanent, adult color – be it blue, green, hazel, amber, grey, dark brown or even blood red.

Below is a simple baby eye color prediction chart, based on heterozygous (the most likely) odds.

Baby Eye Color Prediction Chart:
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The question of eye color, and how it is passed from parents to progeny, has been a topic of debate among geneticists for decades. It has long been thought that eye color follows a simple Mendelian inheritance pattern.

Generally speaking, by Mendelian inheritance rules, eye color is inherited very similarly to the way we inherit hair color: genes for darker colors are dominant – meaning that the traits (or phenotypes) they code for take precedence over the traits coded for by genes for a lighter color.

Parents with dark hair will, in all probability, produce a child with dark hair; light-haired parents will produce light-haired offspring; and parents with differing hair colors will produce children with a hair color in between the two parental colors. Of course, there are exceptions, but these are the same guidelines described by Darwin, Lamarck, and Mendel over a century ago and are the rules that describe the coding and inheritance patterns of most genes.

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What Does Your Eye Color Mean?
By Robert Braders

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A light-hearted attempt to investigate the "true meaning"
behind eye color.

When I was first given this assignment, I was sure it'd be a cinch. "'What does your eye color mean?' Psh – no problem," I said. Gather some hokey historical facts ("People used to think green-eyed people were possessed by snakes"1), throw in some questionable mystical / psychic / astrological beliefs ("Blue eyed Virgos totter on the brink of full-tilt madness"2), and we've got this thing in the bag! Oh, to be that young and naïve again.

1 This probably isn't true.
2 This probably isn't true for anyone besides me.

I knew there was going to be a lot of suspect information out there – I was pretty much relying on it – but honestly I wasn't prepared for just how suspect some of it might be.

My first search online led mostly to angelfire pages and myspace quizzes – neither of which, I feel, are ever likely to be looked on as pillars of truth by future generations. From them, for instance, I learned that blue-eyed people are "spiritual and intense computer loverz." Um, that's... pretty good, I guess, but it can hardly compete with brown-eyed folks out there; one quiz indicates that you're "straight up WARRIORS." Then again, another quiz says the same thing about green-eyed people. I guess we're going to have an insurrection on our hands.

From there, my search for meaning led to the even less reassuring world of pseudoscience.

It began with a study that apparently revealed that blue-eyed people are generally more intelligent than brown-eyed people. Don't you fret, though, brown-eyers! Allegedly you're better at running! The article didn't mention anything about green eyes, so feel free to think you're awesome or terrible at everything, depending on your self-esteem level.

The researchers who conducted the study admit that their results are based on observation, not science, which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. I just flipped a quarter three times, and it came up heads for each. Based on observation, quarters always come up heads. Done.

Have you heard of phrenology? Back in the 19th century, some people believed that you could learn about an individual's personality by studying the bumps on their head. Sounds silly, right? Well, although phrenology was discredited as nonsense a long time ago, it has a spiritual descendent in iridology, the study of the patterns in the irises (the colored part of your eyes).

According to iridologists, your irises exist almost like a map to your body, with each different patch of color responding to a different organ or body part. By studying the changes in these patterns, iridologists can allegedly assess a person's health and personality. However, every scientific study of iridology has shown that diagnoses made with it are little better than random guessing... which may have something to do with the fact that your irises actually don't change in a lifetime. Yeah, whoops.

Unfortunately, when it comes right down to it, the main thing your eye color means is... what color your eyes are. And that all comes down to plain old biology and genetics.

When we're born, virtually all of our eyes started as blue (hence the phrase "baby blues"). This is because the white light entering our eyes gets scattered and absorbed by cells in the eye, reflecting only blue light back through the irises. It's the same reason the sky is blue, actually.

As we get a little older, however, a pigment in our irises called melanin begins to develop. With low levels of melanin, most of the blue light can still reflect back, and a person retains their blue eyes. At higher levels, melanin obscures this blue light, leading to brown, or even black, eyes. Green and hazel eyes are kind of the middle ground between these two extremes. Also, depending on how these patches of melanin form, you can actually have multi-colored eyes: green with brown in the middle, hazel around a ring of gold, that sort of thing.

The amount of melanin you actually wind up with – and thus, the color your eyes will be - is based on the combination of your parents' eye color genes. So, really, if your eye color means anything, it mostly serves as a reminder of where you come from – that you're your parents' offspring, or that you're one rung in a genetic ladder spanning generations. If that's something you'd like to be reminded of, great! If not, might I suggest colored contacts?

In the end, eye color can't mean the same thing to everyone. No two eyes are the same, and neither are the ways we as individuals consider them. Your feelings about each eye color – and what you feel they say about the people who have them – are based on your own personal experience. If your first boyfriend had brown eyes, maybe you still associate them with that time – sweet, innocent, carefree. If you have blue eyes yourself, maybe that's your favorite eye color in others. In the end, though, no one can really tell you what your eye color means but you.