More than half the population of Ireland have blue eyes, according to a new study. That figure is higher than any other country on the Irish and British isles.
The research was carried out by ScotlandsDNA and also revealed that blue is the most common eye colour on the two islands.
In Ulster and Munster 50% of people share the trait while in Leinster it is 52% and Connacht it is 53%.
In Wales only 45% of the population have blue eyes while in the majority of England the figure is between 40-50%.
However, in Southwest England only 35% of people have blue eyes – the lowest in the two islands.
The highest region was Southeast Scotland where 57% of people have blue eyes. However, the rest of the country just below 50%.
The figures show that the idea that blue eyes are rarer than other colours is a misconception.
Alistair Moffat of ScotlandsDNA suggested that blue eyes may be more common because they are seen as more attractive.
He told the Times: “It may be that blue eyes are like the peacock’s tail. It doesn’t confer any evolutionary advantage for the peacock except that it gets him more mates.”
He speculated as to the reasons that blue eyed people are often considered more attractive. Blue eyes deal with light differently to darker coloured eyes, giving them a natural sparkle.
He added: “’Dark-coloured eyes, the various shades of brown, are able to absorb longer and shorter wavelengths and therefore they appear not to reflect it. They don’t seem to sparkle.”
Brown eyed people don’t need to worry just yet. Dr Jim Wilson who worked on the project says they might be about to become more attractive. He said: “If rarity makes a feature more attractive then it could be that this process is reversed. If blue eyes pre-dominate in Europe then brown eyes might become more desirable.”
Blue eyes are caused by a variation in the HERC2 gene. The first mutation is believed to have occurred 10,000 years ago.