Genetic mutations are the instrument by which nature adds new variations to life. If the mutations give rise to advantageous traits, they get passed down through successive generations and can spread throughout the entire population of a species.
Evolution just wouldn’t be possible without mutations springing up now and again to bestow new attributes on creatures. Take humans, for example. About 12,000 years ago a single human had a mutation that granted them the incredible power to digest milk from a cow. Today this mutation is a common trait and we’ve got entire industries devoted to producing and selling cow milk in various forms.
Scientists estimate that every time the human genome replicates itself there are roughly 100 new mutations. Most of them are benign and negligible, but every so often a mutation expresses itself in the form of a seemingly superhuman ability. These are eight of such super mutations.
8. Super Vision
As far as color vision goes, humans have pretty keen sight relative to other animals. Having three types of cones present in our eyes gives us an evolutionary advantage as hunter-gatherers by better enabling us to spot fruits and berries than animals with only two types of cones.
Color blindness is a condition caused by a gene mutation that disables one of these cones. It’s much more common in males, since the genes responsible for detecting the colors red and green are found only on the X chromosome. Because men only have one X copy, if mutations on the X chromosome occur they’re more likely to exhibit altered traits than women who have two X chromosomes.
But what if instead of disabling one of the cones, a mutation increased the range of colors it was able to detect? If the mutation occurred in a man it would likely only result in a slightly shifted color spectrum. But in a woman, if one of her X chromosomes had this mutation and the other one didn’t, it would hypothetically result in her possessing the ability to see an increased range of colors undetectable by most people.
According to a study published in the Journal of Vision, roughly 12% of women have this sort of “super vision,” although scientists have officially labeled the condition tetrachromacy.