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This Is Exactly How Many People Have Blue Eyes

Those baby blues aren't as common as you think.

You might just belong to one of the world's most exclusive groups without realizing it. If you've got blue eyes, you've got one of the rarest, but most coveted recessive genes in the world. In fact, only about 17 percent of the world's population has blue eyes. In contrast, more than 50 percent of the global population is believed to have brown eyes.

While blue eyes may be rare, they're among the most common eye colors at birth. Most Caucasian babies, and many of other ethnic backgrounds, are born with blue eyes. However, human melanin tends to develop over time. This means that even if you're born with baby blues, odds are you'll eventually develop brown, green, or hazel eyes.

The way blue eyes develop is even rarer than the eye color itself, however. Scientists have discovered that a genetic mutation on the OCA2 gene changes the body's pigment production, creating blue eyes. In fact, a 2008 study published in the journal Human Genetics suggests that every blue-eyed person is descended from a single ancestor who first exhibited this unique genetic mutation.

While blue eyes turn up more frequently in certain geographical areas—Finland and Estonia are thought to have nearly 90 percent blue-eyed populations, for instance—in the United States, the number of blue-eyed babies is shrinking. Researchers at Loyola University Chicago found that, between 1905 and 1951, the number of blue-eyed Caucasian babies in the United States dropped 25 percent.

But they also found no link between having blue eyes and overall survival rates. We'll probably all be just fine if blue eyes become more even rarer, or disappear altogether over time. And while having blue eyes may be rare, if you've got red hair and blue eyes, you're about as anomalous as they come. Both red hair and blue eyes are recessive traits, so getting two at once makes a person pretty darn unique. Want to discover out more about those elusive blue-eyed red heads? This is Exactly How Many People Have Red Hair!

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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