If you travel to places like Nigeria’s Kwara State or subregions of Melanesia, you’ll be surprised to be greeted by Black people with striking blue eyes and even bright blonde hair. Why do you ask? Their unique features exist all because of a little mutation called the OCA2 gene. This special gene helps to create P protein in melanocytes, which are responsible for producing melanin. Melanin is a unique substance that gives skin, hair, and eyes color.
According to Professor Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, at one point everyone had brown eyes, but as humans evolved, the OCA2 gene caught some sort of funky genetic mutation that prompted the chromosome to “switch off,” reducing the production of melanin in the iris.
Eiberg studied the DNA of 800 men and women with blue eyes from varying countries ranging from “fair-skinned, blond-haired Scandinavians to dark-skinned, blue-eyed people living in Turkey and Jordan.” He found that they all shared the OCA2 gene in common.
“All of them, apart from possibly one exception, had exactly the same DNA sequence in the region of the OCA2 gene,” he explained of the extraordinary data. “This to me indicates very strongly that there must have been a single, common ancestor of all these people,” he added.
Some researchers believe that the mutation likely originated from the northwest part of the Black Sea region where a heavy presence of agricultural migration occurred toward the northern part of Europe about 10,000 years ago. Back in 2014, a team of scientists discovered the 7,000-year-old skeletal remains of an African stone-age hunter who appeared to have possessed the OCA2 gene. Dr. Lalueza-Fox, the lead author of a paper on the discovery in Nature told Forbes, that she believes it could have been caused due to diet. Pre-farming humans were known to have munched on “a diet filled with vitamin D from eating meat, fish, and eggs, while early agriculturalists would have relied more on sunlight,” the publication notes. The skeletal DNA was found in Brana-Arintero, a deep cavern in the Cantabrian Mountains near Leon, Spain. The huge discovery not only provided more profound insight into the mysterious OCA2 gene but the analysis also helped to demystify some of the preassumptions about the early descendants of Europe.
Apart from genetic mutation, blue eyes can also be caused by Waardenburg Syndrome, a deficiency that can be passed down through family genetics that change the pigmentation of the hair, skin, or eyes. People with Waardenburg Syndrome typically have hearing loss in one ear. A YouTuber by the name of Cydnee Black shared her experience of growing up with the rare condition.
Initially, the beauty blogger said she was born with gray eyes, but as she grew older, her eyes began to take on a bright blue appearance. Black said while her blue eyes have caught positive attention from fans and followers over the years, she was recently bombarded with mean comments about her eye color. Many critics questioned why she wasn’t proud of being Black and some even complained that they “couldn’t take her seriously” because she was wearing “fake contact lenses.”
Well sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s nothing fake about Black folks having blue eyes. We have them too and turns out it’s absolutely more common than we think.