– There are naturally exceptions, but most people who today live in India or Middle East have darker skin and brown eyes. While researching genetics of skin color, scientists have discovered that about 6,000-10,000 years ago, an interesting mutation took place that resulted in the emergence of blue eyes.
Scientific studies have also revealed that Europeans’ light skin stems from a gene mutation from a single person who lived 10,000 years ago!
Interestingly, both these gene mutations can be traced to India and Middle East. So, it’s fair to ask if people with light skin and blue eyes did originate from India or Middle East some thousands of years ago?
Scientists have discovered that gene SLC24A5 is a key contributor to the skin color difference between Europeans and West Africans.
According to Keith Cheng, Distinguished Professor of Pathology at Penn State University who conducted a major study tracing gene SLC24A5, the mutation in SLC24A5 changes just one building block in the protein, and contributes about a third of the visually striking differences in skin tone between peoples of African and European ancestry.
Researchers at the Penn State University concluded that Europeans’ light skin stems from a gene mutation from a single person who lived 10,000 years ago!
Cheng and his team studied segments of genetic code that have a mutation and are located closely on the same chromosome and are often inherited together.
The mutation, called A111T, is found in virtually all people of European ancestry.
A111T is also found in populations in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, but not in high numbers in Africans. All individuals from the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South India who carry the A111T mutation share traces of the ancestral genetic code. According to the researchers, this indicates that all existing instances of this mutation originate from the same person.
The pattern of people with this lighter skin color mutation suggests that the A111T mutation occurred somewhere between the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Before the emergence of blue eyes all people on Earth had brown eyes. According to researchers, all people with blue eyes have one common ancestor who originated from the region around north of the Black Sea following the last Ice Age.
“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,” Professor Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark said.
After the last Ice Age, a family of blue-eyed individuals spread out from an area north of the Black Sea. These people were among the proto-Indo-European Aryans who subsequently spread agriculture into western Europe and later rode horses into Iran and India, Professor Hans Eiberg of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen explained.
Many ancient civilizations manufactured statues of beings with blue eyes. Such statues have been discovered in India, Egypt, Peru, Mesopotamia and other places. The Sumerians referred to themselves as “the dark-haired people” and they had dark eyes. Yet, the Sumerians created many statues of beings with big blue eyes.
Like many other ancient cultures, the Sumerians considered blue eyes to be a sign of gods.
Studies have shown that pale skin and other traits such as tallness for example, arrived on the European continent relatively recently. People who lived in Europe about 8,000 years ago looked much different by modern standards.
By comparing key parts of the DNA across the genomes of 83 ancient individuals from archaeological sites throughout Europe, researchers discovered that today’s Europeans are a mix of the blending of at least three ancient populations of hunter-gatherers and farmers who moved into Europe in separate migrations over the past 8,000 years. The study revealed that a massive migration of Yamnaya herders from the steppes north of the Black Sea may have brought Indo-European languages to Europe about 4,500 years ago.
However, later studies revealed the story of European migration was much more complicated. Population geneticist David Reich from the Harvard University discovered five genes associated with changes in diet and skin pigmentation that underwent strong natural selection and these genes.
The Genomes Project identified three separate genes that produce light skin. This research showed that European’s skin evolved to be much lighter during the past 8,000 years. The modern humans who came out of Africa to originally settle Europe about 40,000 years are presumed to have had dark skin, which is beneficial if you live in a warmer climate. About 8,500 years ago, early hunter-gatherers in Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary also had darker skin, but in the north, in Sweden ancient hunter- were already pale and blue-eyed. During the same time period, people in central and southern Europe had darker skin.
Then, the first farmers from the Near East arrived in Europe; they carried both genes for light skin. As they interbred with the indigenous hunter-gatherers, one of their light-skin genes swept through Europe, so that central and southern Europeans also began to have lighter skin.
The story becomes even more complicated when we learn that half of the Western European population descended from an unknown Bronze Age king who lived around 4,000 years ago. Although it remains a mystery where this Bronze Age king lived, scientists say he must have existed because of genetic variation in today’s European populations.
So, to say it’s difficult to trace the genes that produce light skin and blue eyes, is an understatement, but many studies show we must look for clues in India and the Middle East. We should keep in mind that understanding how people’s genes make their skin color, is a very a complex process involving many genes that scientists still do not understand very well.
Written by Cynthia McKanzie – MessageToEagle.com Staff Writer