Have you ever stopped to consider your origins? On a day-to-day basis, you probably don’t feel that special, but the fact is that you are the result of hundreds of generations of couplings over the course of millions of years. Some of us knew our great-grandparents, and maybe you even knew your great-great-grandparents, but what about beyond that?
These are the kinds of questions that anthropologists and other scientists try to answer on a daily basis. What were our great-great-great-great-great-grandparents like? What did they eat? How did they live? What did they look like? Even though mankind has only been on this planet for only a small fraction of its existence, that fraction still accounts for thousands of years of evolution and civilization.
One of the questions that scientists wondered about had to do with eye color. Blue eyes are somewhat of a scientific anomaly, and they wanted to see if they could unlock the mystery of the origins of this unique trait.
To find out about the origins of blue eyes, scientists went way, way back by about 128 generations.
Going back that far can get pretty complicated, but scientists think they’ve found where and when this trait originated.
They believe that every pair of baby blues in the world today is descended from a single individual, living in Europe about 6,000-10,000 years ago.
Up until then, it’s believed that all humans had brown eyes, but the emergence of a gene known as OCA2 began causing changes in the amount of pigment the body produced.
This mutation led to different shades of brown and, eventually, to different colors altogether.
Using this information, the scientists were able to pinpoint the origins of blue eyes specifically.
In 2006, scientists discovered HERC2, the gene specifically responsible for blue eyes, in a well-preserved body of a Stone Age man was found in Spain.
Tests revealed the presence of genes found in African populations as well as genes found in modern Scandinavians. It’s thought that this unique genetic mixture is what resulted in the first blue-eyed mutation.
According to Dr. Carles Lalueza-Fox at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, this is the oldest known specimen with this gene. This means that this man was the first of his kind and the ancestor to all blue-eyed people today.
If you have blue eyes, this might be a picture of your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (probably with several more “greats”).