How a white baby can be born to a black mother - the statistics of skin colour

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The genes that control the amount of melanin in someone's skin operate under "incomplete dominance" which means no specific trait over-rules the others.

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All of the variant gene traits are completely expressed, and visually this will mean a mixed-race child's skintone will be a visual mix of its parents.

This chart shows how that works with two parents with three white-skin alleles gene traits , and three black-skin alleles. The use of six gene traits is just an example to show how the mixing can produce many different combinations.

However, the chances would be far lower for this to happen in Catherine's case, as the recessive gene could be just one in 20 alleles - in fact, the chances of this happening were calculated at roughly one in a million!

But those one in a million chances happen. It's the nature of statistics that statistically unlikely events happen every so often. So it may be surprising, but it's not out of the normal. The vast majority of people fall on the spectrum in between. But t hough geneticists understand skin colour that way - it's not how society views skin colour.

Socially we tend to put people in much simpler categories: That means we find it hard to understand natural genetic variation. Throughout history it has been used to justify wars and inequality. The story of a baby coming out a surprising colour isn't the first of its kind - there have been many examples of children being born a different colour to their parents.

One of the saddest - and most famous - stories is that of Sandra Laing. Sandra is a black-skinned woman who was born to white parents in apartheid South Africa and forced to leave home at the age of ten.

People have also had children who have differently-coloured skin to their siblings. In , Kylee Hodgson and Remi Horder had twin girls - one black and one white.

If you're really fascinated by learning about genetic variations in skin colour, we recommend this really great Wikipedia article which goes into a lot of depth on the subject. Catherine Howarth with baby Jonah and husband Richard Image: Sunday Mirror Get daily news updates directly to your inbox Subscribe See our privacy notice More newsletters. Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice. Subscribe to our Daily news newsletter Enter email Subscribe.

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