Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blue-eyed lemurs: not HERC2   posted by p-ter @ 3/10/2009 07:51:00 PM

The genetics of blue eye color in humans is almost entirely controlled by a single SNP in a conserved non-coding region in an intron of HERC2, as was strikingly demonstrated in a recent study on using genetics to predict eye pigmentation.

Humans are not the only primate to have blue eyes--one notable example is the blue-eyed black lemur (pictured on the right). As it's well-known that convergent evolution in pigmentation has occurred in many taxa via similar genetic mechanisms (eg. MC1R), one obvious question is: have similar genetic changes led to blue eyes in humans and other primates? For blue-eyed lemurs, a new study demonstrates that, well, the answer is no. The authors sequence the region known to be causal for human blue eyes in both blue-eyed black lemurs and a closely-related, non-blue-eyed species, and find no differences.

Though this is a negative result, it's still kind of fun, and establishes a nice example of convergent evolution via separate genetic mechanisms in primates.

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