The gene for blue eyes has been linked back to a single ancestor who's genes mutated between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Today, approximately one in six people have blue eyes. But as it turns out, one in six people have been living a lie.
But as it turns out, all human eyes are brown. We hate to break it to you, but those aquamarine eyes you're so crazy about aren't as deep and blue as the sea. They're as brown and murky as a mud puddle. Sad but true.
And it's not just blue eyes that are actually brown. The same goes for glamorous green eyes or stunning hazel. And Elizabeth Taylor's famous violet eyes? You guessed it - they were actually brown. While this is sad, sad news, there's actually some very specific science behind it.
Essentially, the color of your eye has more to do with the presence of pigment than it does with anything else. Melanin, which is also found in skin and hair, is a pigment that lives in the iris of the eye (aka the colored part around the pupil).
"Everyone has melanin in the iris of their eye, and the amount that they have determines their eye color," according to Dr. Gary Heiting, the senior editor of All About Vision, an eye care website. "There's really only (this) one type of pigment."
Melanin is a dark brown pigment composed of melanocyte cells. Every eye contains melanin. Therefore, every eye is - for better or for worse - brown. It is the amount of melanin that dictates what shade we see when we lovingly gaze into our sweetheart's eyes - and what shade our sweetheart sees when they gaze back.
"It's an interaction between the amount of melanin and the architecture of the iris itself," explains Heiting. "It's a very complex architecture." How complex? It's as complex as our feelings as we process that we've been living a lie this whole time!
Essentially, an iris that contains more melanin will absorb more visible light. Because more visible light is absorbed, meaningless light is reflected out. This process makes it so the eye appears more brown.
Additionally, this little trick the eye has been playing on us our entire lives is responsible for the reason why different light settings make it look like some people's eyes appear to change color. So your friend who has different color changing eyes doesn't posses a cool super power - they just possess less pigment in their eyes.
This fun fact accounts for the fact that a lot of babies are born with blue looking eyes - even if that babies eyes turn brown later in life. Often, a baby's eyes will not have developed all of its melanin, and thus, the baby will appear to have blue eyes. So just remember this fact before you wonder if your newborn is actually the mailman's kid!