by Soojin Um
The legendary singer Sir Elton John once sang a song celebrating blue eyes. It was probably a person he was singing about, but for us at Zignature, blue eyes always makes us think of the Siberian Husky. Other animals, such as cats, have blue eyes too and they’re certainly beautiful. However, the deep blue of Husky eyes are different. They’re like the clearest aquamarine sea of the Caribbean, and absolutely mesmerizing. So how did they get these beautiful blue eyes? Do other dogs have them too? Let’s take a look.
The reason why Siberian huskies have blue eyes was not known for a long time. Genetic testing of breeds is difficult to do because there isn’t concentrated populations of breeds from where testers can get DNA samples. That is, until mail-in genetic tests for dogs became popular. Suddenly, geneticists had plenty of data to work with, which helped boost studies worldwide. In the case of Huskies, researchers were astounded at what they found.
It’s called canine chromosome 18. More specifically, a mutated variant of this chromosome was found to be present in all Huskies with blue eyes. A section of the chromosome was duplicated, and duplication is known to cause genetic novelties. Additionally, canine chromosome 18 is near the ALX4 gene (the gene responsible for eye development), and scientists believe the duplication of this chromosome is affecting the eye color. This mutation causes the iris to produce lower levels of pigment, thus the eye looks blue.
One interesting thing to note is, blue eyes are not caused by blue pigment. There is no blue pigment in the body. Blue eyes just have low concentrations of melanin, a dark pigment, usually brown in color, which is also responsible for skin color. Because the levels of melanin are low, the scattering of light from the iris makes the eye appear blue, much like the way the sky appears blue.
Other breeds can have blue eyes as well, but that is usually the result of merle patterning. Merles have patches of dark and light pigments, including the eyes. This is different from Siberian Huskies where their eye color is a result of a genetic quality specific to the eyes. In merles, this pigment pattern affects the whole body.
One look at a Siberian Husky and it’s a sight no dog lover can forget. Their gaze with those blue, piercing eyes rival that of any wolf. Their eyes made them seem mysterious for centuries, but modern science has uncovered what makes these wonderful creatures so unique. If the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, then the Siberian husky can represent the soul of the canine species.
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