Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Green Eye Colour: a rare human eye colour

Rare green eyes in humans

There are a lot of different eye colours in humans but some are more rare than others. Just look around you and take a good look at peoples eye colour. There is a high chance you will notice a lot of people with brown eyes. Brown eyes are by far most common in humans. In some countries, the brown eye colour is the only colour there is.
In other countries however, you would find a lot of diversity. Green, blue, hazel, grey and even violet eyes do exist as well. 


Green eyes in the Middle East

Brown is the most common eye colour

In the US only 1 out of 6 people have a light (blue) eye colour. The brown eye colour is in the US the most prevalent. No surprise, because brown is also the dominant colour. In other countries, especially in northern Europe, brown is less common. Estonia for example is a very light eyed country with almost 98% having the blue eyes.

Africa is very brown

The further you go to the south, the more chance there is that you will find a person with brown eyes. In southern europe for instance, there is on average a change of 80% you will find a brown eyed person. Lighter eyes are also in southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece) less common. Further south, going to Africa, light eyes are almost disappeared.

Light eyes in Scandinavia

Scandinavians tend to have a very light appearence. Light eyes are definitely the standard in these northern countries. Sweden, Norway and Denmark all have high percentages of light eyed people. Also Finland and Iceland are extremely light with almost 90% of them having light eyes (green, grey and blue). Other ''northern'' countries like The Netherlands, Scotland and Germany have light eyed peoples too. In The Netherlands approximately 80% of the inhabitants have green or blue eyes. Germany (especially the northern part of the country) follows with almost 70% having lighter eye colours.

Green eyes are rare

Within the ''light'' eyed population, the green eyes are outnumbered by the blue eyes. Green eyes are dominant over the blue eye colour but there are only very few people that carry the genes responsible for green eyes. Only 1-2% of the entire human population have green eyes.

Shades of green eyes

Green eyes can look very different. They can be very dark, almost brown. Sometimes they are very light: almost neon. It all depends on the amount and type of melanin inside the iris. If you have a lot of melanin, your eyes look darker and if you have only a tiny bit, your eyes tend to look very light (bright).

The light green eyes are most common in Iceland, The Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland, Estonia and Scandinavia. Dark green eyes can be find all over Europe, the US and even in Pakistan. 

Dark green eyes
Light green eyes




















Green eyes and red hair

Scientist suspects there is a relation between red hair and the green eye colour. It looks like there is a high correlation between those two human traits. Having the red hair colour is also very unique (and recessive). Only 1 - 2 % of the entire human population have naturally red hair. Of course, not only red hair coexist with green eyes. Also blondes and darker hair colours tend to have green eyes (or the other way around). 

Green eyes and gender

Normally, you would expect a 50/50 gender variation between the eye colours (blue, brown), but scientist found a positive correlation between being a woman and having the green eye colour. Why green eyes are more found in women is still unknown and it is not certain a gender differentiation actually exist. The findings could be biased somehow. 

red hair, green eyes and being male: the odds are very low

Hazel eyes are Green eyes?

Some people confuse hazel eyes with green eyes. Hazel eyes are also very rare but are different than green eyes. First of all, hazel eyes have more melanin. They look more brownish and are overall a bit darker, sometimes with a golden teint. People with hazel eyes often notice a considerable change in their eye colour, especially when a lot of light reflect on their eyes. Secondly, some green eyes have a lot of yellow pigment in them. Hazel eyes share this yellow pigmentation hence the confusion.

Eyes with a Green-Hazel colour

Where do green eyes come from?

Green eyes can be found anywhere but you will find them most of the time in Europe. Some people believe green eyes came to existence due to a mixture of blue and brown eyes. This idea became popular because a lot of green eyes can be found in areas where brown and blue eyes came together. When we look at the map, the highest percentage of green eyes can be found in Scotland. Ireland also has (relative) a lot of green eyed inhabitants. 

Green eyes have lipochrome. This lipochrome (also known as feomelanin) is a yellowish pigment. People with green eyes and especially those with amber coloured eyes have a lot of this yellow lipochrome inside their irises. Those with blue, brown or grey eyes usually don't have any lipochrome. When you have a lot of lipochrome inside your iris, you might have the amber eye colour. When you only have a small portion of this yellow pigment, your eyes might look a bit more green/blue-ish.

The combination of the yellow pigment and low amount of melanin gives rise to light green eyes. When you have a moderate amount of melanin but also lipochrome, your eyes probably look darker green. When you only have a low amount of melanin (and no lipochrome), your eyes look blue.

Light Green Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin + moderate amount of lipochrome

Blueish Green Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin + low amount of lipochrome

Yellowish Green Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin + (very) high amount of lipochrome

Dark Green Eyes: moderate amount of melanin + moderate amount of lipochrome

Brownish Green Eyes: high amount of melanin + moderate amount of lipochrome

Blue Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin (no lipochrome)
Brown Eyes: (very) high amount of melanin (no lipochrome)
Amber Eyes: (very) low melanin + very high amount of lipochrome
Grey Eyes: low amount of melanin (no lipochrome)

Heterochromia Iridum

Some people have a truly unique thing going on with their eyes: they have more than one colour! When one eye has a different colour than the other; it is called heterochromia iridum. When only a small portion of the iris has a different colour, it is called: partial heterochromia. 

complete heterochromia: blue and green
Read for more information (Dutch): Green Eyes: a rare trait in humans

95 comments:

  1. Very interesting article. I am glad you mentioned of an additional pigment, lipochrome, in green and amber eyes. Most articles just assume that green eyes are caused by an intermediate amount melanin. What exactly is lipochrome? Does it have other names?

    One additional point you may want to clarify: From what I've read elsewhere, for blue versus brown eyes, it's not just the amount of melanin but rather the location. Both blue and brown eyes have melanin in the back of the iris, but only brown eyes have melanin in the stroma, the front layer of the iris. That the location of melanin, and not just the amount, affects eye color makes intuitive sense, as there are people with dark blue eyes (high amount in back of iris, none in the stroma), and others with light brown eyes (moderate amounts in both back of iris and in stroma).

    Thank you for your article. What source did you read that discussed the lipochrome - I can find very few articles mentioning it.

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  2. Do the people trying to track the little blond girl found in Greece with the gypsy couple know of the low incidence and this article about green eyes. Most articles about the little girl say they are green. some say blue. Could you let them know of this research in this article because it may narrow the search for the true birth mother and hopefully father of this child. thank you very much, please act on it, you could solve the mystery of this missing child.

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  3. My family has a strange variety of eye colors. My father has brown eyes, while my mother has silver eyes with a hint of blue. My sister has gorgeous eyes, they are silver with a hint of green. I have hazel eyes, they are gold near the pupil and are light brown towards the edges of the or is. They are ringed in a dark green and have brown flecks. I'm not really sure how this happened, but its very interesting.

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  4. Hi, wanted to share my eye colour, may be you will find it interesting. I actually never met anyone with similar shade and my eye doctor says its very rare and unique
    http://i023.radikal.ru/1401/8d/099035b8948b.jpg

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    1. Hi, Olessya! They are very unique. My dad actually has the exact same type but the inside starburst is a bit smaller than yours. The eye doctor called it Blue-Honey eyes, but everyone calls then something different. Regardless --they are super pretty! :)

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    2. That's because you descend from a reptile.

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    3. wow Olessya your eyes are gorgeous my eyes look sorta like that but they are more of a silvery blue with white streaks

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    4. Awesome, looks like there is fire in your eyes. My eyes are army green with a bit or orange specks in there. Apparently my eye's are the rarest eyes amongst males.

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    5. looks cool

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    6. Its not uncommon but it is very interesting. My eyes are dark green with a gray ring around and small orange patches very interesting to look at, whatever combination. Better than solid blue or brown. No offence 98-99% of people

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    7. my eyes are a dark green when i get up in the morning but when ihave been outside for just a second and i look into a miros,they turn a light green shade.. i think i'm wierd but i'm sure it's like that with uther people.
      but also,my eyes are outlined with a darker green then the shade of my ectual eye
      and near the iris there's more of a silvery/bleu ish color.
      is this wierd?
      oh yeah, i also have,awkward,a bright yellow line in a circle a round my iris in the green part of my eyes!
      can someone tell me if this is wierd or not

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    8. my eyes are hazel they change color depending on lighting sometimes they look more gold green or brown they also have a thin blue ring around the pupil

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    9. Hi, That was very surprising to see replies and so many people posting.
      I actually wanted to share a new picture I took. This is with slightly dilated pupils.
      http://s018.radikal.ru/i524/1407/5d/1c93f043d304.jpg

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    10. Eyes don't change color, except when a baby's eyes turn into their permanent color. Color doesn't change due to mood, weather, lighting conditions (although some of these may give that illusion).

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    11. I can rub my eyes and they turn a different color.

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    12. Olessya, You and I Have Exactly the Same Colored Eyes. The Same Amount/Percentage of Green Outer and Yellow/Amber Inner Colors. Having Traveled Rather Extensively Years Ago Around the World and Right Up to and Until This Day, I've Never Seen Another Same Color/ed Pair of Eyes of the Few Thousand People I've Met/Encountered. Ms. Olessya, You, Your Eyes, Absolutely Amazing! J.j.Mann on FB.

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    13. How about that one my 16 years old son has that color, and my eye color change day to day blue or green
      http://s017.radikal.ru/i421/1411/b1/c2f6edb34fca.jpg

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    14. @Olessya, I've seen many people with those colors in their eyes. I consider them to be a brand of hazel. And I know tons of folks with hazel eyes.

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    15. My eyes look like yours but a little darker overall.

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    16. Yes, Hazel. Lots of hazel eyes in Scotland and Ireland. Mine are the same. Some people say my eyes are green, some brown. When I look in the mirror I see a starburst of gold round the pupil on a green background with a ring of dark blue around the Iris. Have been told very often in brown eyed countries that they are beautiful. Was once followed around a Turkish town by a carpet seller proclaiming 'your husband very lucky man!' I'm Scottish and this eye colour is very common with red hair. Got it all from my Mum.

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    17. I have a friend who has eyes like that too!

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  5. Wow! Your eyes are beautiful, @ Olessya

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  6. I have Hazel/Green eyes and my mum has greyish blue and my dad has very dark brown... WHY!?

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    Replies
    1. Sometimes eye colour can skip one generation. Perhaps your grandparents had/have green/hazel eyes?

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    2. my dad had blue eyes my mom had dark brown i have hazel they change depending on lighting, they are a mix of brown/gold/green with a very thin blue ring around them

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  7. I am the youngest of 8, both parents were irish, black hair and blue eyes..all 7 siblings are the same..then came me, dark auburn hair and light green eyes...I guess I am a rarity!

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  8. I am a male with red hair green eyes freckles and pale skin. my parents had Brown and blue eyes.and dark hair.were the f.ck did I come from.?lol

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  9. I kind of have a mix of bluey-greyish-greeny eyes, with a darker ring aroung the outside.

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  10. Interesting Article. I've been wondering about my eyes ever since I was a kid as no-one could decide whether they were green or blue. Now it makes sense!

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  11. i think my eyes are kinda weird, because they change their color all the time, i'd say they change as the weather changes. some days they are blue-grey, other days are blue-green, while sometimes they shift to grey with yellow shades. my parents have green eyes, and blue eyes.

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    1. Mine are the same, people say Im crazy when I tell them they change color, all I can say is they dont know me very well if they have never noticed lol

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    2. When I was younger I always said that my eyes change color, and no one believed me until my mom was talking to me and one of my eyes, (I usually have green eyes) were half green half blue, perfectly down the center horizontally, and know, no says that I lie about it xD

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    3. That's probably because you have hazel eyes like me. Mine do the same thing. But for me it's brown-green then brown then sometimes goldeny yellow.

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  12. My eyes are kind of the same they change colour's to, they go from a light ish green/gray to green/blue. witch makes sense becuase my mom had blue eyes and my dad has the same eyes as me witch change colour.But i really like my eyes :)

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  13. also my eyes change if i cry or what my emotions are.

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  14. People tell me I have the greenist eyes there ever seen.sometimes I carnt belive how green they are.I all so have red hair.now turning snow white.

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    Replies
    1. Green eyes are indeed very special. The combination of red hair and light/bright green eyes is probably one of the most rare phenotype we know.

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    2. I am this type too Anonymous. Not turning snow white yet though. :) Always ready for a Jultide party in red and green ;)

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  15. Ok, can you tell me which eye colour do I have? it' neither blue-ish green, nor yellow-ish. so what is it then? http://s11.postimg.org/vhqzbv09f/20140401_155401.jpg

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    1. maybe hazel I like!!!!! do your eyes change with light

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    2. sea-green hazel

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    3. i have almost the exact same color eyes! i always just call them green even though the change from inside to out from yellow to green to blue around the outside

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    4. I have the exact same eye shape and color- I actually thought this was a picture of my eye. Really Weird.

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    5. You have blue Amber eyes. they change in light. My sister has same

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  16. My eye color is BLACK!!
    Is it rare???

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    Replies
    1. They are probably just really dark brown.

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    2. What I know from biology class is that they are rare in a gentic cross-over with someone with light-brown or blue eyes. Your eyes for sure have a lot of malanin in them, is your hair dark brown/black aswell?

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    3. well...i also have black eyes. my mother and dad have light Brown eyes. the funny thing is that my skin is very white

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  17. my eyes are a silverish blue with a yellow splash in the middle with white streaks through at random spots is that rare?

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  18. I think my eyes are green. But I have a weird dark ring around the edge of the color.

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  19. They say it' s rare for people of African descent to have green eyes,(Black, Irish and Native American) but I do. Most people assume I wear contacts, then some know they are real. Two of my kids have my green eyes and my youngest daughter has blue eyes.

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  20. My eye color is green- except I have seen no-one else with same sort of eye color. Its not a dark green or light, it has a bit of yellow (when I say a bit I mean A BIT) on the right side of my eye (if you were to look at them) and a dark blue in the left corner by my eyelashes. I'm from New Zealand also. Do you know what you would call it?

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    Replies
    1. The yellowish part probably has a lot of lipochrome, The dark blue part has no lipochrome, just a little melanin.

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  21. My eyes are green. Also both my parents have green eyes, but both my siblings have blue eyes.

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    Replies
    1. My parents have both brown eyes, but I have blue/green though :-)

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  22. My eyes are green with amber flecks radiating from my pupils and a thin dark green/grey strip around the outside of my iris.

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  23. I have relatively light green eyes, but the centers are starburst gold/blue with brown that fans out towards the edges. The blue is on my left, the gold is on my right.

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  24. I am blonde haired with green - pale minty green really - eyes. All natural. Entirely green with a tiny amount of gold near the pupil... by tiny I mean like 1-3%. With a darker hunter green line on the outside of the iris.

    I am also Scandinavian blonde - so that is NATURAL pale blonde that ranges from straw in the summer to a coppery sand hue during the winter. I was born with white hair and according to my grandmother cornflower blue eyes.

    Ironically everyone else - excep for dad who has hazel eyes - are blue or brown eyed. I'm the only person with green eyes even amongst family members who are red heads.

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  25. In my family I am unique. On my mothers side of the family they all have blue eyes. Actually they all have the same shade of blue. On my dads side they either have brown or blue. Me, I have light green eyes. Unique. My daughter has amber. I think she has amber because of my green eyes. Her father has brown, a darker brown. Fascinating.

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  26. Green eyes are very uncommon in the town and area where i live, i only met like.... 5 people with green eyes... me being one of them, i have blonde hair.... turned a bit dark gold now my father has sky blue eyes, mother had green my sisters all have blue eyes making me quote on quote.... the runt of the family, i love the colour green as well

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  27. What about silvery blue eyes that change color depending on what there wearing. Where do they come from, how and why?

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  28. what if you have grayish-green eyes? with blonde hair?

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  29. what about grayish-green eyes?

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  30. What if you have black hair & Sapphire green eyes?
    The are only members of my family who have green eye...
    My aunt has dark green eyes & I have Sapphire green eyes..
    the rest of my relatives have blue or brown eyes...
    How dd this happen?

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  31. I have bright green eyes--so green that people stop and stare at me on the street on an almost daily basis--I know they are looking at my eyes and I'm used to it.
    My doctors say it is a genetic mutation but a recessive one that is unlikely to be reflected in my own children someday unless I marry someone with the same recessive gene. (Both my parents and all of my siblings have blue gray or hazel eyes.)

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    Replies
    1. A "mutation" is a new occurrence, something not possible with the general genes available. Bright green eyes merely means you have more lipochrome and less melanin (or vice versa) than your parents and siblings. No worries!

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  32. I have Hazel/Green eyes and my mom also has green eyes but my grandma and great grandma have brown eyes. I have eyes in between light and dark green. Is this possible?

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  33. I can't work out which of these my eyes are:

    Light Green Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin + moderate amount of lipochrome

    Blueish Green Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin + low amount of lipochrome

    Yellowish Green Eyes: (very) low amount of melanin + (very) high amount of lipochrome

    Dark Green Eyes: moderate amount of melanin + moderate amount of lipochrome

    Brownish Green Eyes: high amount of melanin + moderate amount of lipochrome

    Any opinions would be gratefully received

    http://s1325.photobucket.com/user/Natopmt/media/4949_113921626822_4971153_n_zps188672dc.jpg.html?sort=3&o=1

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  34. I'd love to see them, post a pic! I saw an elderly woman once, about 20 years ago who had shockingly azure blue eyes - maybe what would be called violet, it's the only time I have noticed someone else's eyes like that. It's happened to me a couple of times, but certainly not on a daily basis - please show us

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  35. Quite curious. I developed green eyes myself recently even though I'm 22. They were brown as a child, turned amber as a young teen, and before I reached my 20s they turned a very pale green eyes, much like the pale white-haired female under the description ''shades of green eyes''. Though I'm also photophobic and myopic.

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  36. Can someone please tell me, my eye color?
    It changes so much on my mood/lighting/clothes.
    It can go from blue to green to grey..
    http://38.media.tumblr.com/1c6e07d330eda694255c66ae0a752ba6/tumblr_n7wfu2iaqW1sddm2io1_1280.png

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    1. From the photos, I would say blue.

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    2. Eyes DO NOT change color. The different coloring only stands out more under certain conditions. But no they do not change color based on MOOD. This myth needs to be put to rest.

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    3. Eyes most certainly can change color. I know because mine did. Both my parents have hazel brown eyes. My eyes were blue from birth to the age of eleven when they gradually turned green and they are still green over fifty years later.
      and the same thing happened to my first cousin when she was 11. I think it has to be genetic.
      .

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  37. Nobody I know actually knows what color my eyes are. If anyone here could help I would be eternally grateful. I have a brown starburst around my pupil, which lightens to a light green. But around the green I have a thick bluish gray ring.

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  38. My eyes are green with gold around the pupils. Both my parents have blue eyes. My only sibling has hazel eyes. My maternal grandmother has green eyes. We have Irish and Dutch decent! The strange thing is...I have black hair.

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  39. My eyes are light green with dark blue rings around the iris and a couple gold flashes inside..I have never met anyone with my eye color, but the time magazine Afghan girls's eyes are the closest to mine I have ever seen.

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  40. I have olive green eyes. In one of my eyes, 25% of it is blue!! Pretty rare, I love it. I have light brown hair naturally and always get compliments because it looks so striking.

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  41. I have one green eye. My other eye is 1/3 green, 1/3 brown, 1/3 blue. Its pretty awesome! -JLK

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  42. I have light-ish brown hair but in the sun looks blonde or browny red. I also have a mix of dark and light green eyes. I also have segments that are yellow. My brothers eyes are amber and my sisters are dark green. My mum has very dark green and my dad have blue, grey. I'm also from NZ :)

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  43. I am a redhead and have blue outline and then green which gose a bright irish green in sunlight then a hazzley brown is this rare

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  44. Well what I thought was interesting is that my cousin from mexico mentioned that most people in mexico have brown eyes..but my family from mexico has quite colorful eyes. She has green eyes, a cousin has blue green eyes, another cousin has gray blue eyes, another has green eyes, another has hazel, my grandma has blue, and everyone else has brown. just felt like saying that, hehe x

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  45. great article:)

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  46. What about Dark blue?

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  47. my dad my mom and my three sisters all have green eye color
    my eyes are brown

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  48. My mum has very dark blue eyes, my dad has hazel eyes, my oldest sister has brown eyes, I have green eyes, and my younger sister has very light blue eyes. Strange :)

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  49. My eyes are yellow-amber, my sisters are yellow-green, my brother has brown-orange, other sisters have hazel of different variations.....mum had emerald green and dad had sea blue....both amazing....

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  50. My family on my mother's parents had brown (mom) and ice blue (dad). Only my mom and one of her brothers have blue eyes, which I thought couldn't happen because brown trumps light colors in eye color. My father's side all had blue eyes. I have light green/gray eyes. How is any of that possible?

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  51. I'm a green-eyed blonde (female). My mother has dark hair and brown eyes, my 2 brothers have blonde hair and brown eyes, and my father is blonde with blue eyes. Why am I the only one with green eyes?

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  52. My eyes, as my friends say, are like a forest in the morning with the sunlight going through the canopy. And around my irises is like a hazel color. Or something similar. I also have brown-red-blond hair. What is really strange is nobody in my family have eyes like mine. So what caused this? (PS: my mom has hazel eyes and my dad has blue eyes)

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  53. Can anyone tell me wat colour my are i get told they look green and brown or hazel but cant see enough brown or orange in the middle file:///storage/emulated/0/Android/data/.cliptray/1417637571068.jpg

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  54. I have small, deep set, gray green eyes; curved bone above eyes; about 5-7 lines running horizontally across the forehead; height is 177cm; tree bark hair color; hair is very wavy upwards (like the horns of a reindeer); am oldest of my brothers and a sister (she has yellowish light green eyes), but all of us look very different, as well as our parents; I have 100% genes from the old original inhabitants of Scandinavia and my father (he has light green eyes, larger than mine) is the 5. from a black woman from St. Croix, who was made pregnant by the dane Hans Gram, the secertary of governor Schimmelmann, and their son became a merchant in Iceland http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Jonatan

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  55. Editing my comment from 21 December 2014 at 13:41:
    Eyes are green gray (rather than gray green) because the gray color is stronger.

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  56. Editing my comment from 21 December 2014 at 13:41:
    177cm is the average height of males on Earth, but in Africa height varies from very tall, at east, and very low in the jungle, at west.

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