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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

That Which Accounts for the Blueness of the Sky

Has anyone told you, you have beautiful eyes today? No? Why don’t you try on hazel eyes for a day and let me be the first?

The beauty of hazel eyes adds a bit of a mystery on the human eye-color chart. Less than 7% of the world’s population has hazel eyes, which make hazel eyes rather rare.

The science of the observable characteristics of hazel eyes is, like all eye colors, determined by genetic traits “influenced by up to sixteen known genes, passed to you that you inherit.” Science no longer thinks that your hazel eyes “(or any other eye color) happened because of a dominant gene.”

Once genetics has its say in giving you your special color, then eye color is affected by two factors, the pigmentation of the iris and how light is scattered through the iris, which then depends on lighting conditions. However, it is the appearance of all light colored eyes, including hazel, which depends on this scattering effect of light, a “phenomenon similar to that which accounts for the blueness of the sky.”

According to the US Census Bureau, as of 2014, Brattleboro's population was 11,679 people. If, 7% of Brattleboro has hazel eyes, then perhaps up to 800 people locally walk around with those blinking works of art. Those 7%, who have hazel eyes, come in more color variations than all the other eye colors. It’s not unusual for people to describe this “magnificent” eye color in many different ways.

Sunlight, depending on the time of day, indoor artificial lighting, makeup, clothing, drugs, medications and emotions can all affect the hew and intensity of hazel eyes. Because of this shifting in color more than other eye colors, defining hazel is more difficult. But that adds to its mystery of being one of the unusual colors and, its added beauty to the wearer.

Any person can inherit hazel eyes but the likelihood is higher if you are “Spanish, Middle Eastern, Brazilian or North African descent.”

So, if you are one of those who walk around with these works of art for all to see, enjoy the beauty and mystery that Mother Nature’s variety adds to all living things.


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An impressive family tree

All blue-eyed people have one ancestor in common, born around 6,000-10,000 years ago. Blue eyes are caused by a gene mutation. For years, researchers had searched for it on the OCA2 gene. The OCA2 gene determines how much brown pigment is in our eyes. But what they were looking for wasn't there at all.

The mutation was found on an entirely different gene called HERC2. HERC2 turns off OCA2, meaning it turns off the brown and reveals the blue. Every blue-eyed person has this exact same mutation.

How did this mutation get its start? Possibly when humans migrated from Africa to Europe. This would explain why only people of European descent have blue eyes. It would also suggest that all blue-eyed people share a single European ancestor.



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