Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blue eyes, baby's got blue eyes

Dear Yahoo!:

Why are all babies born with blue eyes?
San Mateo, California

Dear Ally:
We're not all knowing. To be honest, we're folks of average intelligence who happen to have an Internet connection and lots of time on our hands. So, being neither rocket scientists nor brain surgeons, we were tempted to dismiss this question as the "nonsensical ravings of a lunatic mind." Good thing we didn't, because the question has merit and the answer is quite interesting.

As it turns out, most babies are born with blue eyes (perhaps this explains the phrase "baby blues"). Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine of About.com explains that the transformation has to do with the protein melanin. Melanin is a brownish pigment that adds color to your hair, eyes, and skin. At the time babies are born, melanin hasn't yet been "deposited" in the eyes' iris. Hence, they appear blue.

After about six months, eyes change color depending on the amount of melanin. If you have a lot of it, your eyes will turn brown or black. If you have little, they'll stay blue. And if you have no melanin, your eyes may appear pink. Interestingly, as the site notes, human beings aren't the only creatures with freaky color-morphing eyeballs. Kittens experience the same phenomenon.
Why are all babies born with blue eyes?

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