Melanin determines the eye color

Variations in the human’s eye color, which has an incredibly wide range amongst animals, is essentially due to the nature and the quantity of melanin contained in the iris. Thanks to this anti-UV, this circular membrane can play the same role as a camera’s diaphragm: by contracting more or less, the iris changes the diameter of its central opening, the pupil, and regulates the light flow hitting the retina. Different nuances of the iris, from blue to brown, grey to purple, are due to the melanin concentration in its two forms which is produced by cells called melanocytes. A low quantity of melanin in the iris will give it a blue color thanks to an optical effect similar to the one that makes the sky look blue. In case of total absence of melanin, which is the case with certain albino persons, the iris becomes pink, just like its blood vessels. The green color could be linked to the presence of another pigment. Things get complicated when it comes to explaining why blue iris sometimes have circled dark spots.

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This diversity lets us know that the eye color is more complex than what we’re told about the “blue eye gene”. Other genes are still to discover, they could explain those spots’ localization and the intensity of the iris’ pigmentation.


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