The Origin of Black People With Blue Eyes
People pay very little attention to common eye colors, which explains why I get little to no compliments on my big brown eyes. We tend to be captivated by rare traits or unusual combinations, such as black people with blue eyes. This article will cover the origins of black people with blue eyes, and will list some examples of well-known black celebrities with blue eyes.
Can You Be Black and Have Blue Eyes?
Yes, you can be black and have blue eyes.
Still, blue eyes are very uncommon among black people, especially those with no Caucasian ancestry. Research has found that almost everyone with blue eyes is linked to an ancient genetic mutation, and a small fraction get their blue eye color as a result of a health condition such as ocular albinism, which affects the pigmentation in the eye.
What Is the Origin of Black People With Blue Eyes?
In short, the origin of black people with blue eyes is no different than the origin of any human's eye color, the deciding factor being genetics.
Research argues that, at one point in time far in the past, everyone on the planet had brown eyes. The first light-eyed human emerged only about 10,000 years ago, says Professor Hans Eiberg and his team of Danish scientists from the University of Copenhagen.
In their study, Eiberg and his team recruited 800 blue-eyed men and women across different countries. They studied the genes that coded blue eyes in all of these individuals.
They were able to conclude that all blue-eyed people have the exact same DNA sequence to account for their blue eyes. They also found that this DNA sequence contains an ancient genetic mutation which presumably occurred 10,000 years ago around South-Eastern Europe. In other words, blue-eyed celebrities Matt Damon and Elijah Wood are your distant cousins if you have blue eyes. Everyone with blue eyes is related in a distant way.
Black people are affected by this genetic mutation in the same way any other human is, but because the mutation originated in Europe, it is rare to see a black baby born with blue eyes. We will explore this concept more in the sections below.
Another, but less common, reason why a black baby may be born with blue eyes is if it has ocular albinism or waardenburg syndrome.
Where Did the Blue Eye Mutation Come From?
The mutation that gave rise to blue eyes altered the OCA2 gene, a gene that codes for the production of the brown pigment (melanin) in our eyes.
"Originally, we all had brown eyes," says Professor Hans Eiberg from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. "But 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."
The mutation can be compared to an error in the recipe to create brown eyes, in which the amount of melanin is altered. The result is very little melanin production in the iris of the eyes, and the low melanin concentration, being insufficient to produce brown eyes, produces blue eyes2.
For 10,000 years, the blue-eye gene has been passed on from parents to offspring and has spread to different geographical regions. A descendant often has blue eyes if he or she inherited the right set of genes from both parents, and it is believed that almost every blue-eyed person on earth today inherited the same mutation from the same source.
A tiny fraction of blue eyes are caused by health conditions such as waardenburg syndrome and ocular albinism. These conditions are characterized by pigmentation problems, and can affect as many as six different genes responsible for eye color. These health conditions impact the growth and development of pigment-producing cells, and can potentially lead to a much lower pigment concentration than in the case of the OCA2 mutation, producing brighter (almost white) blue eyes.
Apart from pigmentation defect, waardenburg syndrome is associated with congenital hearing loss and heterochomria. Ocular albinism, just like other forms of albinism, has been linked to severe ocular defects including high sensitivity to light and involuntary eye movements.
Why Are Most Blue-Eyed People of European Descent?
Almost everyone in Africa and Asia has brown eyes. In fact, brown eyes are the most commonly occurring eye color in the world. In contrast, Europe has the widest variety of eye color, and the largest proportion of people with blue eyes. In fact, over 80 percent of the inhabitants of Estonia and Finland have blue eyes.
But why are there so many blue-eyed people in Europe?
The first thing to consider is that Europe was the epicenter of the blue-eye gene mutation. This might be one of the most important factors to explain the high proportion of blue eyes on the continent.
Another important hypothesis is partner selection. The gist of this concept is that individuals were much more choosy in ancestral Europe than anywhere else in the world. In other words, a European guy in those days was more attracted to women with blue eyes than those with brown eyes. This type of selection might have increased the likelihood of giving birth to a child with blue eyes, and explains the difference in eye color diversity in Europe versus the rest of the world3. Both hypotheses explain why the proportion of black people with blue eyes may be the smallest.
Can Blue Eyes Skip a Generation?
Yes. Not only can blue eyes skip a generation, they can skip multiple generations.
If blue eyes are already in the family, there is no guarantee that a parent will pass them on to their child. Blue-eyed parents can give birth to brown or hazel eyed offspring, with the blue eye mutation lying dormant within the child's genetic make-up. It's hard to predict when the mutation will appear again.
What Is the Rarest Eye Color?
Whether you're black or not, the rarest eye color in the world is green. It is estimated that only about two percent of the world's population has green eyes.
As for blue eyes, it is estimated that about eight percent of the world's population has them. While green eyes consist of a mild amount of pigmentation with hints of gold, blue eyes are formed by the absence of pigment in the iris.
Why Do Some Black People Have Yellow Eyes?
When people refer to yellow eyes, they are speaking of the whites of one's eyes (called the scelera), rather than the iris.
Whether a person is black or not, the whites of their eyes can turn yellowish for a number of reasons. These include:
- Jaundice – The most common cause of yellowish eyes. Jaundice can also turn the skin yellow, and usually indicates a serious problem with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas.
- Hepatitis – An inflammatory condition of the liver, and can cause yellowish eyes.
- Biliary Duct Obstruction – Blocked bile ducts can cause the whites of one's eyes to yellow.
- Alcohol-Related Liver Disease – Yellowing of the eyes can be caused by damage to the liver caused by heavy drinking.
- Cirrhosis – Severe scarring and poor function of the liver due to damage by alcohol or viral infections.
- Gallstones – These can block the bile duct and cause yellowing of the eyes.
- Thalassemia – A blood disorder that causes the body to create an abnormal form of hemoglobin.
- G6PD Deficiency – A genetic condition caused by a lack of the G6PD enzyme in the blood.
- Acute Pancreatitis – Inflammation of the pancreas.
Can Black People's Eyes Change Color?
The color of a person's eyes can change color, whether they are black or not.
In fact, Caucasians are more likely to inherit eyes that change color, since they generally have lighter eyes.
Changes in eye color are caused by the expanding and contracting of the iris, the colored part of the eye. When the iris is contracted, the pigments are compressed, making the color appear darker. When the iris is expanded, the pigments are spread apart, making the color appear lighter.
Since the color of one's eyes can change according to the size of their pupil, eyes usually change color depending on the amount of light entering the eye. Eyes can also change color according to one's emotion. When one feels relaxed or happy, the iris expands. When one feels angry or tense, the iris contracts.
Celebrities With Blue Eyes
Below is a list of well-known black people with blue eyes. Check them out to see just how beautiful this rare combination can be.
- Michael Ealy
- Stephan Belfonte
- Chris Williams
- Vanessa Williams
- Denise Vasi
- Jesse Williams
More Black People With Blue Eyes
Is there anyone in your family (father, mother and children) with blue eyes?
© 2016 Edmund Custers