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back to article All blue-eyed people share one common ancestor

A University of Copenhagen team has identified the gene which around 6-10,000 years ago underwent a genetic mutation in one individual who eventually gave rise to all blue-eyed people. Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine began his research in 1996, when he "first implicated the OCA2 gene as …

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Cool..

this means I am a mutant and my power is .... blues eyes, hmmm okay not a as good as I hoped.

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IT Angle

I don't waste much protein on occular pigment either, do I win a prize?

Spontaneous Genetic mutation ROCKS! It's probably controlled by a few genes, the amount of pigment here. On a lighter note, it's a lovely day isn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Evolution leaps forward...

"Eiberg noted that the blue eyes mutation is neither "positive nor negative", since it doesn't affect chances of survival"

I thought chances of survival and a mutation succeeding was not just down to chances of survival, but also successful breeding. If it was an unwanted mutation, our ancestors at the time would not have been attracted to the new eyes?

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Thumb Down

and he calls himself a scientist...

One thing which really get to me is statements like “Originally, we all had brown eyes" - how the fiking hell does this guy know that? has been alive from the beginning of time? probably not. Scientists of all people should know that nothing is ever 100% proven (only probable to a degree until some better explanation may be found, which in turn is only another opinion). Very annoying. Go do something worth while and stop making headline catching bollocks...... next thing you know the general public will be walking around stating, in a matter of fact manner, that everyone had brown eyes until 8-10,00 years ago! ..

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Happy

Just hoping..

..that doesn't make me too closely relating to Francis Albert. Paul Newman I could cope with.

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Happy

OMG I have blue eyes...

Who's yo daddayh..?

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@ Michael Jolly

you have blue eyes too??? you're my long lost brother!

lend us a fiver?! ;)

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Oh but it is a positive thing

I would disagree with the authors that it is neither a positive nor negative mutation. I believe it is positive, if only in subtle proportions. Consider the following: **two identical humans** One human has bright sparkling blue eyes and the other has brown eyes. The human with blue eyes will have a slightly easier time in life vs. the one with brown eyes because fellow humans are drawn to beautiful things, and the piercing blue eyes are just that - beautiful. This will allow the blue eyed human to possibly choose a more gifted mate. Thus the favored continuation of the gene line over the eons. Seems like a no-brainer to me.....

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hmm

No chance that this mutation happened to more than one person over a 10000 year period ?

I do not want to know that i am related to Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Blue eyed Kev

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Coat

extended family

Can anyone else hear duelling banjos and the distant squeal of a pig?

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Coat

So if...

I have blue eyes and I get it on with a blue-eyed girl...

a). I'm committing incest and should move to Hillbilly country.

b). My gf (who has brown eyes) will kick my ass.

Hmmm. I thought he said something about not being detrimental to survival?

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Boffin

Recessive gene

But if blue eyes is a recessive gene (as I seem to recall from GCSE biology) then the only way to have blue-eyed kids is for both parents to pass on recessive blue genes. Therefore, does that mean all blue-eyed people are the result of inbreeding or the original ancestors grandchildren?

Disclaimer: I am obviously not a geneticist.

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Paris Hilton

@ Evolution leaps forward...

Spot on! Just because Eiberg is not into blue eyed women .....

You mean Paris isn't a natural blonde!!!!

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Paris Hilton

Reproduction is what matters.

It doesn't need to affect your ability to survive to keep going; it needs to affect your ability to survive long enough to reproduce. You can survive to be a hundred, but if you don't reproduce, the mutation will die out.

So, the first blue eyed person, despite looking VERY weird if everyone else had brown eyes, must have got their leg over, thus proving that blue eyed boys get the girls. Or vice versa. Or something.

PS. Paris Hilton. Blue eyes. Mutant. QED.

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Anonymous Coward

Chat up line

"oh you have blue eye we must be related"............ not sure this would work except for Royals.

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Bronze badge
Joke

So...

That Swedish bird I shagged a few years ago and me are related.

<sex-offender-register>

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Boffin

Re: Evolution leaps forward...

"I thought chances of survival and a mutation succeeding was not just down to chances of survival, but also successful breeding. If it was an unwanted mutation, our ancestors at the time would not have been attracted to the new eyes?"

An interesting point, but instead you have to consider that the first human being with the blue-eyed gene probably did not have blue eyes, and neither did any of his/her children.

As a genetic trait, blue eyes are seemingly recessive, so you would need two blue-eye genes to have blue eyes. The gene may have passed for any number of generations before the first actual blue-eyed human was born, and the survival of the gene would not have been dependent on this individual. In fact, the sexual attractiveness of blue eyes may have had a negligible effect on the spread of the gene for the first hundred years of its existence, hence Eiberg describing it as neutral.

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I for one...

...welcome our new blue-eyed overlords.

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Alert

All that's all we need!

Another perfectly interesting scientific discovery that will no doubt be twisted by some brain-dead wacko with an internet connection, a minority to target and an axe to grind!

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Joke

so

does the mean all people with blue eyes are inbred?

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In-breeding

I've always said my in-laws were a bunch of in-breds. Now I've got proof.

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No genetic advantage ...

Hmm, I would be tempted to speculate that a slightly more reflective iris might aid vision in relatively low-light conditions, which could explain the relative prevalence of blue eyes further from the equator.

Although in all probability that's bollocks. :) I'm slightly concerned by the implication that my girlfriend and I are related ...

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ID?

"nature is constantly shuffling the human genome, creating a genetic cocktail of human chromosomes and trying out different changes as it does so"

Seems like this professor is an ID believer.

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Coat

OCA2

<singing>"OCA2 - and don't it make my brown eyes blue"</singing>

--outta' here

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hidden mutation?

Who says they had to be attracted? Perhaps they were indifferent. Plus, if I remember correctly from my high school genetics class (highly unlikely), it takes two of the mutated genes to produce blue eyes. Having just one non-mutated gene will make brown eyes. Hence, the original mutant may not even have had blue eyes and they wouldn't have shown up until his/her descendants started to inbreed. Meaning? The mutation could have been around for quite a while before it ever showed itself and then suddenly affected the whole community giving the people little choice where attraction is concerned.

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Coat

Thinking about it a bit more...

..Only ONE switch? What if there was water contamination from a flint mine/Mammoth farm/terrorist training camp or something equally ancient. Thousands "switched" and blue eyes everywhere in one location. Then, migration...

I'm told we DO share two ancestors, but I don't Adam-and-Eve it.

Incidentally, I was walking down the stairs of my apartment once, and a girl was walking up. We looked at each other for half a second, and her eyes weren't just blue - they almost shone like lasers. Actually shook me so much I held onto the handrail for a second. This in Finland...

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Born with blue eyes?

I thought everyone was born with blue eyes, and that they changed whilst still a baby?

Or is that some kind of urban legend?

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Alien

Not Positive

RE: Eiberg noted that the blue eyes mutation is neither "positive nor negative",

Well they seem to be spreading quite well and i do remember a study which showed that women in particular prefer blue eyes. Seems like an evolutionary advantage to me!

Its also the most popular contact lense colour for the above reasons probably.

They may also have psychic powers

(I made the last one up......or did I?)

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Boffin

Yes it does RE: Evolution leaps forward...

You're right. Even more broadly, the perpetuation of a neutral mutation is highly "contingent", as the biologists like to say. For example, if the mutation arose in somebody of high social standing or otherwise highly desirable as a partner, the mutation has a good chance of being passed on despite its strange appearance -- and even perhaps, within a generation or two, becoming interpreted as an indicator of high social standing and hence desirable in its own right. On the other hand, if it arose in some random peasant, it might have been shunned in favor of other random peasants. Of course, a point mutation like this could easily crop up several times before finally catching on.

Once we passed the point, as a species, where social interpretations began to play a major role in our ability to pass on our genes, all kinds of neutral mutations (including secondary sexual characteristics) and even some negative ones can get perpetuated, at least within a given society -- for example, hemophilia in the royal families of Europe. (It's fascinating to watch evolutionary sociologists scramble for explanations of this or that preferred physical characteristic, like long legs, in terms of its ability to "signal" better health, when in fact it may turn out to be purely a neutral mutation that happened to get attached to desirability by chance.)

(Actually there is a lot of debate in evolutionary biology about just how big a role contingency plays in evolution in general, even for "positive" mutations, but that's very long story...)

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Boffin

Bring on the genetically engineered superheroes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Statesmen_%28comic%29

New Statesmens, graphic novel about unravelling the genetic code and the cultural, political and popular implications of. brill stuff.

(The first step in creating superhuman celebrities was to build an "optiman", choosing his eye colour and everything).

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Paris Hilton

"chances of survival"

okay maybe not chances of survival, but one look at the esteemed and fantastically pretty Miss Hilton will convince even the most hardened Darwinist that it will increase the chance of breeding.

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Attractiveness

"Eiberg noted that the blue eyes mutation is neither "positive nor negative", since it doesn't affect chances of survival."

Maybe being blue-eyed makes one more or less attractive which whilst not directly affecting chance of survival would have an impact on the possessor's ability to attract a sexual partner.

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Heart

We all have a bit of blue eyes...

So we all have blue eyes just waiting to get out.... Gene switch please.

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Go

so...

Does that mean that if I happen across any blue-eyed couples, that I should grab my crufix/pitchfork and denounce them (loudly) as aberrations, in-breeders and general against-God's-law types ?

Cool. But tough luck for you, Iceland. Prepare to burn !

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_color#Blue

Yours, Daily-Mail-grabbingly..

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Bronze badge
Happy

You're right Liam, it is a lovely day

And even though my eyes are unfortunately stuffed full of melanin, I can still see out of the window well enough to note that the sky is blue and crystal clear, even over London.

What's more, it's Friday.

Like anything though, the day could be improved a little bit. For example, I could be looking at it from a pub garden instead of my office, but it would be churlish to complain really. It's still pretty good.

Getting back to evolutionary advantage, I wonder if blue eye colour will confer some sort of advantage now that young people all want to "be famous" as a career? I would think having blue eyes definitely gives you a head start in the worlds of film and fashion.

I for one welcome our supermodel overlords.

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As I understand it....

...and I'm not an expert....but what it comes down to is that this gene caused a change (brown eyes to blue). The change affects absolutely nothing, but goes down to descendants. It also doesn't (significantly) affect attraction of mates (some people prefer blue eyes, some brown, but it's not a major effect one way or the other). So it just stayed because it did no harm. And now, we have lots of blue-eyed people but significantly more brown-eyed people.

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Eye Colour isn't a breeding inhibitor

"I thought chances of survival and a mutation succeeding was not just down to chances of survival, but also successful breeding. If it was an unwanted mutation, our ancestors at the time would not have been attracted to the new eyes?"

People have been breeding with unattractive people for thousands of years; eye colour is not going to stop a man wanting to sow his wild oats.

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Coat

Mutants

MJ, I'm blue-eyed too and I know my special power. People say something mutates after several buckets of Guinness anyway, and, trust me, it's powerful...

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Boffin

survival vs reproduction

"Eiberg noted that the blue eyes mutation is neither "positive nor negative", since it doesn't affect chances of survival"

I would argue that it was a positive mutation, because the blue-eyed population (as a percentage of total population) has obviously grown since the initial mutation occurred.

If there is no 'survival' benefit, then it is probably with some aspect of reproduction - i.e. blue eyed individuals are more likely to mate more often, or will be able to attract more capable partners, or be reproductive for a longer time, or something...

I wonder if there have been studies on this in the current population - eye color vs family income / number of kids / marriage longevity / ??? It would also be interesting to know how percentages of blue-eyed people have changed over the centuries in different areas of the world...

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Anonymous Coward

It's me.

Sorry about that.

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Dan
Coat

Born with blue eyes? @ Neil

Yes thats correct Neil, but its more of a dark navy blue. A babies eye colour changes about 3 to 6 months after birth to their final colour.

My son is 11 weeks old now, (although he was born 3 months premature, so he's still technically a week from birth,) and his eyes were dark navy to almost black. But then his mothers eye are black, (such a dark shade of brown that they look black,) and mine are bright blue. He does seem to have very very dark blue eyes right now, but we may have to wait a few more months to fully see.

Worse news is the poor bugger has his mothers nose lol

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Pirate

then

you're all related to Adolf Hitler....

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Flame

Er, where do I fit in?

I've got one blue eye and one green eye - what does that do to this research?

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Boffin

Burny

It's likely that blue eyes could give/could have given some sort of reproductive advantage.

On the other hand, they do present a disadvantage: blue-eyed people are more likely to get cataracts. As with skin, less melanin means less protection against UV rays.

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@ bradshaw

"I would argue that it was a positive mutation, because the blue-eyed population (as a percentage of total population) has obviously grown since the initial mutation occurred."

But you forget that the population generally has certainly grown since the initial mutation and that therefore the growth in the number of blue-eyed people is probably relatively proportionate to the growth in the number of brown-eyed people.

Anyway, I'm all for brown eyes. We rock, like chocolate!

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Stop

@Onionman

Paris actually has brown eyes but weres blue contacts. Also... oh god. I just corrected someones celebrity knowledge. On a IT news site. Euthanize me.

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Paris Hilton

There is a very clear evolutionary advantage to blue eyes (for men)

The gene for blue eyes is recessive, so if you and your wife both have blue eyes, and she gives birth to a brown-eyed kid, you know without a doubt what's going on. Anything that helps a person spot their own genetic offspring would have to be an advantage in the evolutionary sense.

Of course today we have paternity tests, but for thousands of years uncertainty of paternity has been a major factor in human society. Just watch the Jerry Springer show to see what this uncertainty can do to a person.

Paris, 'cause anyone who marries her would need paternity tests every time.

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@Dan

Cheers matey. My son is 2 and has brown eyes and all I can remember of the early days were no sleep and having to goto work. I'd need the vast photo-archive to check the eye-colour.

Perhaps the point is people without blue eyes like me have shit memories.

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"Blue Eyes"?

Actually genetics is based on probability.

It doesn't say both parents must have the blue eyed gene for you to have blue eyes, just that it is more likely (probable) to produce blue eyed children. As with anything based on probability, it is the law of averages.

For example My father Brown eyes and mother blue eyes produced 6 children.

3 had brown eyes and 3 have blue eyes. The law of averages is demonstrated (not proven).

While it is true that having both parents with a recessive blue trait will produce 1 in 4 children with blue eyes, only one parent having the trait will produce blue eyed offspring more rarely say 1 in a 1000 or even 100,000. Yet it will happen (probably).

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Coat

@theotherone

Not quite sure what you mean by we're all related to Hitler... You do realise he had brown eyes don't you? (And was Austrian I believe).

He just realised that everyone should worship the blue eyed overlords a little early!

Now buy me a beer or I shall use my mutant blue eyed evil stare a second time.

(Does anyone know how to get the laser bit to work?)

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