Why does your iris have a colour?

Your favourite eye colour might be the result of an old mutation.

5th July 2011
Why does your iris have a colour? (iStock)

 

Asked by: Anonymous

The function of the iris is to limit the amount of light that passes through the lens to the retina. To make the iris opaque, it is coated with the pigment melanin, in varying degrees for each of us.

Melanin makes the eyes dark brown and 10,000 years ago, everyone’s eyes were this colour. Then a mutation turned off the pigmentation on the front of the iris. 

This allows light to reach the fibres of the stromal cells beneath, and they reflect light back as blue. Green, grey and olive eyes are just half-way colours. 

 


SFQASubscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun facts.

You are currently reading: Why does your iris have a colour? - 5th July