Twins With Different Skin Color Genes

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The two girls you see in this photo are twins. Born to a mother of Jamaican-English descent and a father of German descent, Alicia and Jasmin Singerl were born in May, 2006. They look completely different.

Their mother, Natasha Knight says:

“When they were born you could see there was a color difference straight away. We couldn’t believe it.

Alicia’s eyes were brown and her hair was dark. Jasmin’s eyes were blue and her hair was white – you could hardly see her hair or her eyebrows.”

The Sunday Telegraph is calling this a “million-to-one medical miracle.”

Ahem. Statistically, this is perhaps a very unusual occurrence. But a medical miracle? Unlikely.

These girls are just like any other sibling pair because they are non-identical, born of two different fertilized eggs. That their mother has mixed parentage makes it even more likely for them to inherit a mixture of different genes that determine skin color. As a matter of fact, their five-year-old sister Taylah has blue eyes, blonde hair, and light olive complexion. Sort of in the middle of the the spectrum for the Knight-Singerl family.


In the process of meiosis when egg cells are formed in the mother, a random selection of genes will be allocated to each egg. The set of chromosomes in each egg cell is unique. We’re focusing on the twins’ mother here because the father is assumed to have a homogenous set of genes for white skin color.

Genetics experts say that in most cases a mixed-race woman’s eggs will be a mixture of genes for both black and white skin.

However, much more rarely, the eggs may contain genes for predominantly one skin color. In this case, Ms. Knight has released two such eggs – one with predominantly dark pigmentation genes and one with predominantly fair genes.

Wild and unlikely, yes. But a miracle? Not quite.

N.B.: Razib at ScienceBlogs’ Gene Expression has more about another set of contrasting twin girls (but in their case, both the parents were mixed race).

Update: Another pair of black and white twins has been identified – the Richardson twin boys of Britain.

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    • http://www.homelyscientist.com/ Tris Hussey

      Can you imagine the school-yard discussions? Yeah we’re twins … no you’re not you don’t alike … we’re fraternal … you’re not! You’re black and the other is white!

      Hopefully they won’t wind up on Jerry Springer or something in the future.

    • the brownh0rnet

      Has the twins’ paternity been officially established? Maybe mom enjoys the occasional 3way….

    • http://www.babylune.com Kate

      “Medical miracle” also shows a pretty shocking lack of cultural knowledge. There was a documentary released in England about 5 years ago about another pair of twins in precisely the same situation.

      Instead of saying “Oh, strange,” the professionals should be turning the girls’ parents toward all of the resources available to show them how other families live with this in Europe. I, though, also find myself wondering if they shouldn’t be looking at communities in the Caribbean and South America (even Hawaii) where cultural mixing for generations makes people in the same family look quite different from each other in terms of complexion.

    • http://www.babylune.com Kate

      Oh, and, circumstances aside, they are both so cute! Just absolutely beautiful, healthy little babies.

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Tris: Your mind thinks in tangents….

      the brownhornet: Yes, I suppose it’s possible but in my opinion, being simultaneously impregnated by two different me would be just as unlikely given the probabilities.

      Kate: I agree! They’re not a freak show for goodness sakes, but two beautiful little girls.

    • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

      i cranked the numbers:
      Well, if each child is a fraternal twin the chances of the outcomes are independent, so you multiply across, 1/16 X 1/16 = 1/256, or one out of a 256 chances to get this combination, but…you have to double it because there is a case where the colors might be reversed, so it is actually 1 out of 128, or 0.8% of fraternal twins with this combination of parents would come out like this. So to get to 1 in a million you need to mutiply out by the fraternal twinning rate, and this exhibits interpopulational variance as well as dependency on diet. In Japan it is 1 in a 1000 while in some African nations it is 15 in 1000. Using the Japanese fraternal twinning rate you get 1 in 128,000 chance, and the African twinning rate a 1 in 8,500 chance. So not quite 1 in a million!

    • http://www.homelyscientist.com/ Tris Hussey

      Yes … multidimensional, tangental thinking. How many ideas can I process at once … that’s a question.

    • Julie Ann Vancil

      God’s blessings on the happy family!

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Thanks, razib. I remember you had calculated that but was too lazy to pull the numbers. :P

    • http://river2sea72.livejournal.com river2sea72

      My hubby has a twin sister. They still get asked if they’re identical.

    • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

      Thanks, razib. I remember you had calculated that but was too lazy to pull the numbers.

      just to be clear, the calculation above was for this pair of twins. i also did the previous pair, who were much closer to ’1 in a million.’

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    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Oops. Sorry. I figured that out last night when I was reading SB GNXP.

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      For the person who left a comment here all in CAPS, I’m sorry but I accidentally deleted it. If you come back, would you mind sharing your thoughts with us again? Thank you!!

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    • MomOfBlack-White Twins2

      Yet another “one in a million”? Hardly. I am a mixed-race mother of twins that look “black” and “white” with the same eye/skin/hair color differences as these girls and the other recently noted cases of black/white twins in Britain. (Like the others – mine have one “white” father, no IVF or hospital mixups.) Where we live in the southern part of the US, passersby are surprised, but not shocked. Here in the States as elsewhere in the world, centuries of intermixing (voluntary and otherwise) have produced a continuous stream of “different” siblings. Socio-cultural prejudices – not genetics – label children like mine “different” and make our families nearly invisible. The internet and non-stop news simply provide visibility into a phenomenon as old as mankind itself – genetic diversity. Thanks to all contributors here for helping to clarify the scientific and mathematical ignorance behind these “news” stories.

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Mom of Black-White Twins: Thank you for sharing your experience! Now that you mention it, it is certainly very common for siblings to have different skin tones. I can think of several off the top of my head.

    • Lucy

      Their are twins in my school who are black and white, But the only diffrence is they say they have diffrent fathers, Now can someone please explain to me how do twins have diffrent fathers… unless the mom is some kind of freak.

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Lucy: In some very very rare cases, twins have been found to come from two distinct eggs fertilized by sperm from different fathers. Nothing freaky about it, but very rare. :)

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    • Trainer

      How about giving birth at the same time( once) with 2 guys who have diffrent colour of skin.
      Would it possible to make above situation ???

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Trainer: Definitely possible but another rare possibility.

    • PremKhan

      Siblings of different complexions are quite common in many countries like India, Mauritius and East Indies even when the parents are of the same skin colour. I have seen in many cases especially Indian(Asian) families where both the parents are dark-skinned but some or most of their children pale and fair-skinned. And it happens almost all the time. Or the father pale-brown and the mother dark-brown but their children a variety of skin complexions. Indian(Asian) famillies deal with siblings with different complexions as if its a norm.

    • Frank

      I just adopted twins, one black male and one white female. Not sure if the children have the same dads or not? How possible is this, that the children have 2 seperate dads?

      any help on this would be great. This is all new to my wife and I.

    • Janeen

      I am a bi-racial woman (Polish, German mother & black father) with dark olive skin. I am the mother of fraternal twin boys who are 8 yrs old and have different skin color. My husband is Irish/German and very fair skinned. I also have a 9 yr old daughter who has very fair skin, brown hair and eyes. My guess is that this will become more common as our society continues to blend.

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      PremKhan: Very interesting to know!

      Frank: The likelihood is quite slim that the twins have different fathers but that depends on the mother’s history. The only way you’d be able to confirm that is to have a DNA test done on both twins.

      Janeen: How interesting! And I also agree that the blending of races will inevitably result in siblings who may look more like one parent than the other and not look like each other much at all. Kind of like my sister and me! ;)

    • Frank

      Does anyone know the odds (in numbers) to what it is to have a 2 different fathers? I hear the odds are 1-1million with the same parents (is this correct as well)?

    • http://geneticsandhealth.com Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Frank: You can find stats on bipaternity in this post at Gene Expression but estimates show that it occurs for 1 pair in 400 dizygotic twins in white women. And according to Razib’s calculations, genetically the odds are 1 in 500,000 for different race parents to have twins that are two different colors.

    • Frank

      Do you know any good websites that parents of twins use?

    • andy

      I am married to an African American (very light) and I am caucasion. We just gave birth to our first child who was born very pale with bright red hair and blue eyes. How could this happen? I believe that his maternal grandfather is caucasion and native american.

    • Dee

      It’s totally common for siblings to have different skin tones for people of color. Both my parents are African American-My mom is very very light skinned and my dad is very very dark skinned and I have 5 siblings altogether and our skin tones literally make up every color in between my moms complexion and my dad’s complexion. Besides that, the reason people never question whether we are brothers and sisters is b/c we all have the same distinct features otherwise like big lips, big eyes, lots of dark hair, same shape eyebrows, etc. The only other thing that varies about us is that we each have different noses which is kinda neat how that worked out.

    • Sara

      my grandmother is very dark toned, however, both her parents had blonde hair and blue eyes, and my grandmother’s children all had red hair and blue eyes, so im wondering how is it that certain genes can skip several generations…and then come up generations later?

    • Latu

      Just studing this and it is very possible to have 2 fathers. DZ twins if mother had intercourse around the time of ovulation with two differen men.

      This happened before during the Nazi time and also other proven examples. Yes Frank best to check the DNA

    • Tiffany

      Hi,
      This is amazing thing for both children to born of different skin tone but not unlikely. But I do have a question that no one has been able to answer. what is the percentage that two African American parents can create a child of white skin tone, blonde hair and brown eyes?
      I’m curious!?!

    • http://cox.net Tiffany C.

      I am a white female and my husband is black. Our first son is the “normal mixed color” then we had twin girls 11 mo. later.. we have one the same color as our son and one more fair skinned than me!! It is very beautiful having a rainbow colored family!!

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    • Sapphi

      This topic of skin color inheritance in families is a very fascinating. I am a very light skinned black woman. My dad’s mother is mixed somewhere as she had light complexion, curly blondish hair and grey-blue eyes. My mother is very dark skinned black woman. With all this I came lighter than my dad and my other siblings range in skin tone from very light to very dark.

      I never really thought much about how this happened until recently I had a baby girl with a very dark-skinned man and she has his exact skin tone at 4 months old and is perhaps set to become darker than he is. I have done a lot of reading and can see therefore how this can happen. Many other people don’t though and the questions and ignorant comments never end. I am constantly being told that this could never be my baby! Imagine the cheek!

    • http://myspace.com/123 Mr. billt

      Did you all notice that besides east Indians, that black families also have siblings of varying complextions, who are not mixed….I guess its typical for people of African and East Asian descent to produce these kinds of things..Its only rare to us whites, well because were all born pale pink

    • sam

      I am a twin and for people out there who dont know it works is that when you are born from two different eggs then you most likely will have some of one parents genes or half and half. I have a twin brother and when we were born he was white colored and i was dark color no we are not mixed we are all black with native american in us how ever dont sit there and say that the come could have had relations with two guys at the same time yes that is posible but read and get educated on how the twins work and are created

    • Nancy

      The different colored siblings is not just for darker races. My sibings and I vary in color. I am very pale and burn easily in the sun. My brother and sister are darker. My sister has six kids and they run the gammet on color. So some of us understand.

    • mandy

      I’m white and have very pale skin. My husband is black and his skin tone is darker. We have 2 beautiful daughters togther one’s 8yrs and other 1yr old and they both look white. They’ve took after me as far as skin tone,hair color is brownish blonde and same texture as mine an very loose curls and their eyes are hazel. I think it’s amazing.

    • ally

      the only thing that matters is that your happy and that they are happy :)

    • http://www.yahoo.com Dee

      They are gorgeous babies. I am sure they are very active toddlers now. I do wonder what they look like 2 years later?!
      I do agree with a few comments above; there are many countries where people have mixed for generations and generations. In addition, there have been many continents and countries that have been colonized and many families do experience this very same thing. I guess it is more dramatic when we have babies who are twins of two distinct races.

      My siblings and I are very distinct in our skin tone. My mom is mixed and my dad isn’t so all three of us look distinctly different and not just in terms of skin color, but also eye color. The same thing applies to my son and daughter. She has curly hair, with dark brown eyes and brown skin, while my son was born with grayish blue eyes, blond lashes, brows and blond hair as well as a white complexion. However, we knew that this would happen, because both his natural family and my natural family are reflective of our nuclear family. I know that this is not unique for many families around the world. However, it is even more amazing when it happens simultaneously. I guess.
      : ))

    • http://www.yahoo.com Dee

      They are gorgeous babies. I am sure they are very active toddlers now. I do wonder what they look like 2 years later?!

      My siblings and I are very distinct in our skin tone. My mom is mixed and my dad isn’t so all three of us look distinctly different and not just in terms of skin color, but also eye color. The same thing applies to my son and daughter. She has curly hair, with dark brown eyes and brown skin, while my son was born with grayish blue eyes, blond lashes, brows and blond hair as well as a white complexion. However, we knew that this would happen, because both his natural family and my natural family are reflective of our nuclear family. I know that this is not unique for many families around the world. However, it is even more amazing when it happens simultaneously. I guess.
      : ))

    • Rosa

      I am the mother of one-year-old twin girls. One was born fair skinned like me the other of a cinnamon complexion like daddy. I too wonder how it will be in the playground, and how it will be for them later as they begin to look on how to identify with the outside world. However, I do take comfort that our rainbow circle is a loving and supportive one.

    • shaun

      I am mixed black and white, but I think it’s peculiar how most of the people on here say “very, very light skinned black person”. Ummm, it’s called mixed. You might identify with black culture more, but you aren’t black if there are white people in your family or one of your parents are white. I just hope these interacial couples remember to tell their children this. Even if you are dark skinned and come from a mixed couple, doesn’t mean you are only black because you skin is.

    • Laura

      Aside from all the fascinating genetics, it is wonderful to see. Isn’t this the way we are meant to see everyone- different colors, same family.

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    • Jane Diddoli

      This is no big deal, as I know of a few Euro American couples who have twins and one looks like the mother and one looks like the father. And, I know a Chinese couple with the same. The only difference with their story is that they are couples of the same race. So, why isn’t one of these couples’ story on here? Is it an issue of the color of skin that you all find so important? Do you think this couple is better than others just because they have an interracial marriage? Excuse me, but this does not make them any better than anyone else. And, if you hate pure white people so much, then why don’t you just print a story of a pure Chinese couple with twins that don’t look alike? I hope you get my point!

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    • Charles L King

      The mixing of the races is inevitable and an important part of the development of mankind and his civilization in the world. What is wonderful and exciting to people who have travelled the world or whose minds have been opened up by education, like Angelina Jolie and Obama’s mother, is the delightful range of visual possibilities for the human race. Variety is eagerly sought after as an important aspect of beauty in all the arts. Every musician and every painter is well aware of this. As a teacher who has often been confronted by a classroom full of children ranging in colour from pale blond to obsidian I have been entertained and enchanted by the silent music of their harmonious skin tones as they proceeded along their individual developmental paths. Blessed are those of you who can hear that music of racial harmony towards which we have been pointed, and for those who are tone deaf to the possibilities of delight these produce, I weep for you. I expect you will find your beauty in other areas.

    • http://sterlingcommercialventure Nsikanson

      God is at work, He’s showing people whose god is science that there is no difference between white and black persons. All races are the handiwork of God and they are equal before Him.

    • http://blogbytravis.com/fitness/knee-exercises/ Knee Exercises

      That’s so wierd but awesome at the same time. It would be interesting to see how these twins will select their friends, what differences they will share in society and how they will come to accept people of the other race. I’m sure that this is an eye opener to many as well because it is even more proof that people of different color are indeed the same.

    • Heather

      It’s more common than people think. It’s just that most parents don’t want their children’s faces plastered all over the news. Thank God for His babies.

    • jfer jaga

      I am a black african woman. I am just amazed at how much some people are either too sensitive or afraid of black skin. Stop sending flags!! about black skin. We at least have the good manners not to do the same about your skin color??!!!

    • angel

      Tiffany
      Aug 25, 2007 at 2:50 pm

      Hi,
      This is amazing thing for both children to born of different skin tone but not unlikely. But I do have a question that no one has been able to answer. what is the percentage that two African American parents can create a child of white skin tone, blonde hair and brown eyes?
      I’m curious!?!

      My comment:

      I don’t know what the chances are, but I know it can happen. I have cosins with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin, born to both black parents. I have also seen other children like that born to both black parents. now the texture if the hair is a different story…lol. but it can happen.

    • HappyMom1

      I think the babies above are beautiful little girls. I am light skinned african american and my husband is a dark skinned african. Our baby is in between both of our colors. However I wonder what are our chances of having twins such as these girls. My fathers mother was so light in color she looked like a mexican and her brother surely is mistaking for a white man(I thought he was) and so on through out the family even our texture of hair is different then normal african american hair. We are obviously mixed with some of everything. Since I have a great chance from my maternal side to have twins I would like to know what are the chances of having this surprise miracle for me?

    • melanie

      i think it is amazing and in my opinion evolution. the twins are soo beautiful and it is not really a miracle because i’m from the caribbean and light-skinned babies are being born to black mothers most of the time. both of my parents are black but me and my sister are light-skinned because our great grand-dad was indian.chances of us havin half indian babies are high. things like that shoudnt matter anyway, it’s a way of god showing us that skin colour doesnt matter and people should accept us for who we are, put aside all this racism. if one calls it a miracle then they should come to the caribbean and witness such miracles everyday.

    • nya2003

      yay!make the whole world brown!! i love mixed people..(my fiance is white) our kids are gonna be the cutest!!

    • Courtney

      Race is a man-made differentiation in order to separate groups of people for man-made reasons. If this conversation was about eye colors in families, we wouldn’t be talking about it being because of “mixed race.” My mom is one of five. Two siblings have blue eyes, two have brown and one has hazel. So what?

      Also, someone said something about this being weird to white people because we are all born pink-skinned at birth. I come from a “white” family but we actually have all “races” in our genetic history and we all have variances in our skin colors. My mom has a pink complection, but I have an olive one. My brother is rather naturally tan. Again, so what? This just goes to show that “race” is a stupid way to classify people.

      Most families have differently complected members–just not as often with such vast contrast. However, it is more interesting when the contrast are large. I knew a Mexican who looked middle-eastern even though everyone else in his family looked amerindian. I also have a cousin who has black, thick hair like a native american’s, even though her siblings have fine, blonde hair. It just happens and it’s cool.

      I really wish that we could look at it as genetic diversity instead of saying “they have a white twin and a black twin,” since both children have the same exact “racial” ancestry. That also goes to show that race is merely about appearences and nothing to do with scientific reality.

    • Veronica Terry

      Nearly everyone African American has some percent of white in their bloodline and half of the white American has African bloodline due to African American passing back in the day and marrying a white person. So the production of these types of births are not rare but a form of reality for the world to see. This is the work of the GOD. The scientist are so stupid using the mathematical scale to determine why such a thing happens to mankind.

    • Fabian

      I am so happy to see that finally people are talking out about mixed race offspring. I myself am mixed race (black,white,hispanic and east indian) but I look very Southern Indian. My sister looks mulatto. I am also several shades darker than both my parents and because of that was the butt of many cruel jokes including my paternity. It is only now as a medical student I have finally come to grips with the genetics behind my appearance and stories like these uplift me even more.

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    • Ashley donald

      there are twins like this at my school ones black ones white but they both look identical so u can tel there twins and the white one has drown hair! i actualy think its cute :P

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    • M S BRAME

      I am 42 year twin who is the white or lighter of the black and white twin.

    • Rachel

      I am a dark brown eyed and skinned mother of 3 ..My family is all white with brothers and sisters having blond hair and blue eyes and while all my children are white (my son has blue eyes) its not quite the mystery as other cases , my mothers mother (my grandmother) was 100% native and I guess the gene for dark complexion decided to skip a generation..yes akward for me but im guessing one of my grandbabies may be dark complected!

    • Angela

      Personally, I find this an interesting aspect of the gene pool but certainly no different than any other set of siblings. I had three daughters. My oldest is 5’7″, blonde hair, a specific build, and hazel eyes. Then I have a set of twins. One of the twins literally looks almost identical to her older sister, so much so I often find myself, as one enters the room, calling her the name of the younger/older sibling. Everyone gets them mixed up, even at school. The eldest said she’s had a strange kid come up and ask if she can borrow lunch money, and my daughter, suprised, explained that she didn’t even know this kid. Then the kid said, “Aren’t you Kelsey”… Then my daughter laughed and explained she was her sister, older by three years. These two girls got their Mom’s hair, build, etc. But Daddy’s features too, specifically his eye shape and color. He’s more olive skin toned, neither of these two have that. I have a pinkish undertone and tan easy but I’m not olive toned.

      The other twin is short (5’2″) , built entirely differently (like her Daddy’s mother and sister) , has baby blue eyes (her Paternal Granny and two paternal uncles have them), and wavy dark brown hair (her Mom has very wavy hair but it’s blonde no one in Dad’s family has wave in their hair). She looks a lot more like her father and his family. He has the dark hair, which she got from her Daddy, but the other two have their Daddy’s hazel eyes, but she did get her Daddy’s family set of baby blues (so all three girls got something of his). The short twin (Dad’s family a may have her Dad’s hair color, but she has my personality and my face shape, my nose, and my eye shape, smile, and teeth.

      Even the three girls have different skin tones — one has porcelain skin, one olive skin tone, and the other is more of a pinkish undertone. Again, a mix of his and mine mixed heritage. We’re both caucasion, but we have a mix of Irish, German, English, and two types of American Indian in us, and probably some things that I’m not aware of!!!

      Fraternal twins get the same gene pool randomness as all brothers and sisters. So it’s no surprise to me that if there’s mixed heritage in either the mother or father’s gene pool that the children’s coloring can run from very light to very dark.

      I know a young man who’s mother is a caucasion, blonde, with blue eyes. His father is a black man (although I’ve met the father’s mother and she MUST have some white in her family tree because she’s a very light skin black lady. This young man has a brother with STRAIGNT black hair (like an Hispanic, but none in the family, guess the Mom had the straight hair) and his coloring is a light mocha…. very nice color. The younger sibling that I know is literally fairer skinned than me, has blondish brown hair, blode arm and leg hair, but has some curl to his hair, although not as much as his father, the black male.

    • leiloma

      I have 6 kids with my husband, I’m New Zealand English/ Samoan descent and my husband is New Zealand English Maori descent, we both are brown skin and have brown colour eyes, our 6 children were all born different colours oldest child is fair skin blonde hair dark blue eyes, next child born is very dark skin and black hair with dark brown eyes as well as the third child, our 4th child is fair with red (carrot colour) hair green-gray eye colour, 5th child fair skin with copper coloured hair & light brown eyes and our last child was born fair skin and blonde hair with dark bluey eyes… I have been the talk of the town when they were all young lol my boys could tell you stories about their friends not believing them that they were all brothers or sisters even their teachers lol…. love my kids 

      • leiloma

        ok

    • sweetness

      ok this is strange but then again its so cool if you believe that that’s possible!!!!

    • Stefan

      The misagination that occurs around the world anymore is astonishing. People care more for the breed of there dog than their own offspring.The genealogical mutations that occur tend to always develop in a negative way, not positive. Its not always first generation its usually second and third. Age, I-Q, and the reproductive organs are all compromised. We are in the animal kingdom and nature does apply. Its fashionable to race mix. Unfortunately people don’t want to understand the truth. Study history, Pre 1945. America is creating the next regional race of “Indians”.

      • Zulu

        This shows your lack of knowledge numbskull…the lesson learned is that GENETICALLY the gene marker/signal dependant on skin pigmentation is small. In addition, since BLACK AFRICANS have the greatest genetic diversity, it would not be impossible for this to happen. We all come from one place…get over it!

    • http://www.blisstree.com heather

      I am an african with brown skin and so is my husband but our first born was born dark skinned and our second born was much lighter than me and my husbands complexion. My sister is also very light while both our parents are dark skinned.

    • Annalyn

      My mother and my father are both mixed. My mother is half Italian, and also half spanish with a distant african relative. She has olive skin and hazel eyes with brown hair, her brothers are light skinned with green eyes, my father is brown skinned but he looks as indian.
      When i was younger I used to look very pale skinned with very dark hair, but now I look as my mom. My sister on the other hand looks as my dad. People say I look arab and my sister looks african american, the thing she hates because she’s mixed