Science Articles

Genetic Basis on Human Skin Colour

Skin is the main parameter of differentiating between people just because of the vast range of colours exhibited in people’s skins all over the world.


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The humans are perhaps the most intelligent and evolved animals in this world, by far. At the core of this high level of intelligence is what are studied extensively and known as the sense organs. Human beings possess five sense organs: eyes for vision and sight, ears for perceiving sound, tongue for detecting and differentiating between tastes, while the nose does the above for flavour and smell. Last but not the least we have the sense of touch which is promoted by the skin converging our bodies. Interestingly, skin is the largest sense organ of the human body.

Skin is also perhaps the main parameter of differentiating between people just because of the vast range of colours exhibited in people’s skins all over the world. For example, Asians are almost always brown skinned, while Caucasians are generally fair. All Africans on the other hand have quite dark complexions, and the Americans portray quite a large range of colours all together. As a result of this, quite a fair amount of discrimination has been taking place. Racism, as we all know about it. But let’s rather focus on the scientific point of view.

Since skin colours are almost in all cases linked to the location of origin of the person, it might be sufficient to tell a layman that skin colour is based on the genetic history of that individual. Skin colour essentially comes from the pigment called melanin that is present in the admin cells. Lesser the amount of melanin, fairer will the person be, and vice versa. And these melanin levels are responsible for creating eye colours, the hair shades and skin pigmentation.

Essentially people’s melanocytes or the melanin producing cells are controlled by their genes, and thus it is genetic, no doubt. The enzyme tyrosinase maintains and regulates melanin levels, and this is a classic example of “polygenic” inheritance. This means that not one, but multiple number of genes is collectively responsible for influencing the expression of the skin colour trait. The International Federation of Pigment Cell Society counted exactly 378 gene loci that together determine the skin colour.

The total understanding of all the genetic mechanisms behind human skin colour still needs work, but one thing is for sure – no matter what skin colour we are on the outside, what matters is about what we are like in the inside – “humane” beings or just discriminating and dominating human beings.