DNA Marvels: 40+ Extraordinary Genetic Features That Make Certain People Unique
The human body is weird and wonderful. All sorts of people walk the earth, and while humans are the most diverse species on the planet, the various ways that genes combine to create an array of traits are quite impressive.
According to scientists, each person has between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. These genes are responsible for our entire existence. They dictate all sorts of traits, for example, how tall we are, the color of our eyes, the shape of our ears, and even whether or not we lose our hair.
Sometimes, genes stitch together in a way that is different from the norm. Other times, mutations occur. In this listicle, we take a look at extraordinary humans whose genes have given them traits that make people do a double take.
Dilated eyes naturally occur when the pupil increases in size for many reasons. Your eyes can even dilate when you look at a person you love. So, your pupils’ changing size is completely normal. However, a few of us have pupils that are slightly more unusual.
People with anisocoria have one pupil that is a different size from the other. Some people are born with it, but sometimes it could be because of another medical issue. Anisocoria is not the rarest condition on our list (it affects about 20% of the population), but it certainly is interesting.
The quest for long, luscious eyelashes leads many people down the makeup aisle running to grab the latest product promising full lashes. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the lashes we desired so desperately came naturally? Well, for a rare selection of people, this is a trait they have had from birth.
A mutation of the FOXC2 gene can cause a condition known as distichiasis. This seemingly lucky group of people is born with extra lashes. This mutation is not without its risks, however. It can also cause lymphedema and heart failure.
Imagine spending almost 20 years in jail for a crime you didn’t commit. The catch is that the person who committed the crime looks exactly like you, and their DNA cannot be forensically distinguished from yours. Well, if you had an identical twin, that scenario could actually occur!
When a fertilized egg splits into two, the result is a pair of identical twins, two people with similar looks and almost identical DNA. They may share preferences as they’ve been known to dress the same and wear identical hairstyles; one pair of Australian twins even share the same boyfriend!
Unlike identical twins, fraternal twins do not necessarily look alike and share about the same amount of DNA as regular siblings. They are formed when two different sperm fertilize two different eggs at the same time. They are more common than identical twins.
A pair of fraternal twins that are anything but “common” is Lucy and Maria Aylmer. They are children of interracial parents. Lucy has ginger hair, pale skin, and blue eyes, while Maria has curly hair, darker-toned skin, and brown eyes.
The long and the short of it
Adding to our list of unusual twins is a pair that is as rare as they come—one out of one! These two sisters, Sierra and Sienna Bernal, are identical twins. However, Sienna has had primordial dwarfism since she was born. This means she is more than a foot shorter than her twin sister.
Primordial dwarfism is an extremely rare condition, and as we said, it’s even rarer in identical twins like these two. Unfortunately, people with this condition have a low life expectancy, and most do not live past the age of 30.
The average man is 5 ft 7.5 inches tall, which makes Sultan Kosen more than two feet taller than the average man. He reaches an incredible height of 8 ft 2.8 inches and holds the record of the world’s tallest living male.
The Turkish man has a condition called gigantism, which causes an overproduction of growth hormones. In Sultan’s situation, he had a tumor that affected his pituitary gland (the gland that secretes the growth hormone). He finally stopped growing after surgeons successfully removed the tumor in 2012.
Sometimes it feels like having an extra pair of hands is the only way to get through the day. Well, being born with an extra finger on each hand (medically known as polydactyly) is sometimes described as being born with another set of hands.
According to research, people who have this unique feature are apparently more dextrous than the average human! Sometimes, the extra finger can work like a thumb and be moved independently without too much mental strain. That is quite the superpower.
21-year-old Jacob Pina has quite the party trick. He can extend his thumb to about five and a half inches long. He claims that he extends his finger by dislocating the joint. As you can imagine, his trick has garnered much attention and made Pina famous on Tiktok.
Jacob claims that doctors have not linked his unusual thumb to any genetic condition. However, a condition does exist that causes long thumbs. Brachydactyly long thumb syndrome causes those affected to grow thumbs that are longer than usual. We know who NOT to challenge to a thumb war!
In the eye of the beholder
It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. However, some eyes are so striking and unique that one wonders what they say about the souls of their owners. Heterochromia is a condition that affects the color of the eye, presenting different colors in one eye or each eye.
There are certain myths attached to having differently-colored eyes. One claims that people with heterochromia were once visited by a fairy who looked into their eyes and left a mark on them. Some myths claim people with the condition are witches or evil spirits. Being touched by fairies sounds better!
Star Trek fans may be surprised to find out that there is a condition named after the beloved movie’s character, Spock. In the film, Spock is half human and half Vulcan. His Vulcan heritage endowed him with pointy ears. The character is entirely fictional, but pointed ears exist in reality.
As you can see in the photo above, Spock’s ear, also known as Stahl’s ear deformity, is characterized by a pointy ear. Usually, it presents soon after birth and can be corrected with surgery or an ear molding device. However, we must say that the little elf-ish ears are endearing.
Supermodel Winnie Harlow is known for her striking beauty, great style, and lovely figure. She is also known for being vocal about her experience with vitiligo. Vitiligo is a condition that causes an uneven distribution of melanin across the skin, which leads to splotches of pigment.
Winnie Harlow is not the only celebrity with vitiligo. That list includes Steve Martin, Graham Norton, and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. Some people theorize that the real reason for Michael Jackson’s changing his skin color was because of his severe vitiligo.
It should come as no shock that Ireland has the largest population of redheaded people. You might, however, be surprised by just how uncommon red hair is. Only about one to two out of every hundred people in the world have fiery red locks!
Red hair comes from a recessive gene, which is why it is so uncommon. Considering how rare the trait is, this redheaded family is quite unique. From the mother to the youngest daughter, their rouge tresses are a sight to behold.
No two noses are exactly the same. Some people have what’s commonly described as a button nose, while others have angular ones. There are big ones, small ones, and the list goes on. A nose with no cartilage, though, is unique to a select group of people.
In an act that would impress even “Voldemort” himself, this boy can push his nose all the way back to his skull. His nose is missing the cartilage that would prevent anyone without this condition from performing the same trick.
Finding another family that looks like the Trapps would be a tall order. The average height of the members of this extraordinary family is about 6 ft 8 inches! You know that you’re truly remarkable when you’re recognized even by the Guinness World Records.
As respected, these guys are a force to be reckoned with on the volleyball and basketball courts. Don’t mess with them unless you’re Steph Curry! With that said, there are still downsides to being that tall. Things like driving a car and finding clothes that fit are a bit harder for the Trapps.
This father and son duo takes the saying “like father, like son” to the next level. The son shares an unusual trait with his father: both have short index fingers. Though the reason for their short digits differs, the coincidence is uncanny.
While the son was born with his unique finger, his dad lost part of his as a young boy. In the 19th century, this would have been seen as confirmation of Lamarckism, the now-debunked theory stating that a physical change that occurred during a parent’s life can be passed on to their offspring.
Huang Luo long hair
Hair is significant in many cultures. In Sikhism, growing out your hair is a divine act. In the modern world, women try all sorts of products and extensions to get long locks. One group of women in China has managed to nurture their hair to uncharted lengths.
The Yao women of Huang Luo, China, cut their hair just once at 18 and never again. This tradition stems from a thousand-year-old tale about a Yao woman who whipped an unwelcome suitor with her hair. The women wash their hair with infused rice water and comb it with a wooden comb.
Copy Paste Genes
Reincarnation may be unlikely, but there are times when it seems like it could be more truth than tale. Some people look so much like their grandparents that it is almost as if their grandparents were reborn. You can blame similar genetic makeup for this phenomenon.
Shelby shared this (instantly viral) photo, in which she recreated her grandmother’s outfit. The similarities between Shelby and her grandmother go way beyond the outfit. They have the same smile, facial structure, and eyes. Someone definitely hit copy and paste!
If you are a fan of the circus, you probably know the famous bearded lady, Annie Jones. Annie toured with P.T Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth as a “freak.” These days, women with facial hair, like media personality Harnaam Kaur, are successfully challenging the “freakshow” stereotype.
Hirsutism—excessive hair growth on the female body or face—can be caused by a variety of things. For example, women who suffer from PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, often experience an overproduction of testosterone. This can result in the growth of facial hair.
Being the daughter of the King of Pop is not the only interesting thing about Paris Jackson. Michael Jackson’s daughter has beautiful aquamarine eyes that are clearer than the Mediterranean Sea. Their striking beauty distracts from the unusual reason for their brightness.
There is a rumor that Paris suffers from a rare eye condition called Waardenburg syndrome. Waardenburg syndrome is caused by a mutation of specific genes and can affect the pigment of a person’s eyes, hair, or skin. The condition can also cause hearing loss or eyesight issues.
When Quiana Glide gave birth to her baby, Luna, her pale skin didn’t immediately seem odd. As a black woman married to a white man, Quiana understood that the skin tone of biracial babies sometimes darkens over time. However, Luna’s skin was still pale months later.
Little Luna is now two years old. While she has her dad’s skin tone, she still has a few of her mum’s features. She even has the gap her mother has between her cheeks. Luna and Quiana are prime examples of the unpredictable nature of genes.
When one thinks of flexibility, gymnasts or yogis often come to mind. For some people, though, increased flexibility is something they are just born with. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a condition that allows the joints to move well past the normal range of motion.
While this sounds like a fun party trick, those with the condition suffer constant dislocations, which can be very painful. They are also known to have skin that is more fragile and slow to heal from everyday cuts and bruises.
Tentacles under tongue
Recently, some people on the internet noticed that they have skin tags under their tongues. While the tentacles look unusual, they are completely harmless. Named plica fimbriata, the only disadvantage to these skin tags is that they can get caught between your teeth, which hurts.
The tongue can actually tell you a lot about your health. A change in tongue color could indicate a deficiency in certain vitamins or warn you of an infection. So, pay attention to any changes in the color or texture of your tongue.
Celebrities get messages from fans all the time. In the case of Chrissy Teigen and her husband, John Legend, the DMs are full of baby pictures. That is because the internet has discovered that John Legend has quite a few baby look-alikes.
In 2014, a post about John Legend and a baby look-alike went viral. In all fairness, the baby does resemble the Grammy-award-winning singer. His hilarious wife, Chrissy, explains that this is not necessarily because the babies look like John but rather that John generally looks like a baby.
Typically, when one thinks of a 70-something-year-old grandma, one pictures a sweet-but-frail woman who knits in her free time and bakes chocolate chip cookies for her grandkids. Few people would imagine a bodybuilder with more muscle tone than the average 20-year-old.
In 2010, Guinness World Records declared Ernestine Shepherd the oldest competitive female bodybuilder. She was 74 at the time, but she ran 80 miles a week and bench-pressed 150 pounds. Whether her accomplishments are due to genetics, plain ol’ grit, or a combination of the two, Ernestine is a force to be reckoned with.
It is a common tradition for an heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation. For Brianna Worthy and the women in her family, the heirloom is a white stripe of hair that grows on the front part of their head.
The stripe is known as poliosis circumscripta. The hair in that part of the head lacks pigment (melanin), resulting in a white stripe. Brianna’s little girl, MilliAnna, is the fourth generation of women in the family to be born with the stripe.
Imagine realizing that the person seated next to you on the plane looks exactly like you! Well, Neil Thomas Douglas doesn’t need to imagine. He and his doppelgänger shared a laugh on the plane, but later that night, they found each other at a pub and realized they had also booked the same hotel.
Since we’re not that genetically diverse, it is unsurprising that, at some point, lightning would strike the same place twice in the genetic lottery. If you want to find your doppelgänger, some websites have facial recognition technology to help locate your match.
One for mom and one for dad
It is common for people to inherit different traits from different parents. Some characteristics are more likely to be inherited from your mother—for example, whether you are left-handed or not. On the other hand, your dad’s genes likely have more of a say on your height and eye color.
In a weird twist, this man inherited one thumb that looks like his dad’s and one that looks like his mom’s. His mismatched thumbs are another example of how unpredictable genetics can be. Two big thumbs up to this guy!
Popstar and billionaire entrepreneur Rihanna is known for her hit songs and exceptional beauty. Part of her allure can be attributed to her mesmerizing green eyes. It could be that the reason her eyes stand out is due to their rarity.
Being born with green eyes does not happen that often. In fact, it is the rarest eye color, barring heterochromia. Although green eyes are rare in relation to the world population, they are proportionally quite common in Ireland and Scotland.
A world of colors
You’ve probably heard of colorblindness. A condition that makes it difficult for those affected to differentiate between certain colors, usually red and green or blue and yellow (very rarely does someone see only blacks and whites). However, most people have never heard of tetrachromacy or, as it has been dubbed, superhuman vision.
People with tetrachromacy experience the world in a completely different way. The average person can see one million different colors, whereas a person with tetrachromacy can see around one hundred million colors. It must be like living in super HD!
“Mirror hand syndrome,” or ulna dimelia, is a condition so rare that there have been fewer than 100 reported cases in medical history. People with this syndrome do not have thumbs. Instead, their ulna is duplicated, and they have eight fingers on one hand.
Mirror hand syndrome is caused by a gene mutation. Recently, an 11-month-old baby joined the small group of people with this disorder. Doctors were able to operate on his hand (hands?) in order to give him a regular hand with five fingers.
A mani-pedi outing is a common ritual for many women. The woman who’s next on our list has a condition that caused her to be born without a nail on one finger. In a show of humor, she pasted eyes onto her index finger so that it resembled a worm.
People with anonychia congenita often have no nails at all. Hyponychia is a milder version of the condition, which results in only some missing nails. This uncommon condition is caused by the mutation of a gene and presents from birth.
Taste is usually one of the more overlooked senses. But the truth is, without it, you would miss out on one of the world’s grandest pleasures; food. For some people, a world without taste is their reality. This lack of taste is called Ageusia.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, some people have an increased ability to taste. These “super-tasters” are more sensitive to certain foods. It sounds lovely to be able to taste your favorite food with increased intensity, but often super-tasters are unable to tolerate certain foods, especially those that are bitter or spicy.
If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the now-infamous Oscar slap. It happened when Chris Rock made fun of Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness. Her hubby, Will Smith, stormed on stage and slapped Chris across the face because his wife suffers from Alopecia, which explains her choice to go bald.
Alopecia is a disorder that affects about 2% of the world’s population and results in people losing clumps of hair. The condition is believed to have some genetic predisposition because people who have family members with Alopecia are more likely to develop it themselves.
Oscar Pistorius is a man that beat the odds. As a young boy, he had both of his legs amputated. He was born without calf bones because of a disorder called fibular hemimelia. Despite this, he triumphantly competed in a non-disabled race at the Olympics as an amputee.
Unfortunately, his legacy was destroyed by his conviction for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. On Valentines Day in 2013, Oscar fatally shot his model girlfriend after he supposedly mistook her for an intruder. He is now serving time in a South African prison.
A condition that is a bit more commonly seen (but is still relatively rare—only one case per 18,000 births in the United States) is albinism. This is a condition that refers to a total lack of melanin in the eyes, skin, and hair.
Albinism is not a condition unique to humans. Perhaps you remember the albino python that Britney Spears used in her iconic Slave 4 U performance at the 2001 VMAs. There are also albino lions, crocodiles, and even an albino peacock!
TikTok is known for creating viral trends. Usually, those trends involve some sort of dance. This time, TikTok users are flaunting a very unusual skill. They are showing their ability to completely flip their hands backward and grab a bottle with the backside of their hands.
Most users have not confirmed if their ability to perform this skill is due to some kind of disorder. However, some likely have hypermobility joint syndrome. Those with this condition have more flexible joints. The colloquial term is that such a person is “double-jointed.”
Whether you have a mohawk, man-bun, or some cute bangs, you will agree that hair is a medium for people to express themselves and their personality. For a select group of people, their hair has a distinctly unique feature. A double crown.
A double crown refers to the two whorls on the back of a person’s head. Most people only have one whorl, but 5% have two. Double crowns are also the subject of myths. For example, Taoist priests believe that two whorls are indicative of two souls that have reincarnated into one person.
Look at your hands. How many creases do they have? Most people are born with three prominent creases on their hands: the distal crease, the proximal crease, and the thenar crease. 1 out of 30 people, however, only have a single crease.
A single hand crease is called a single transverse palmar crease. It was previously referred to as the “Simian line” (named after the primate), but that name is no longer considered an accurate description. Sometimes the line is caused by Down syndrome, Fetal alcohol syndrome, or Aarskog syndrome, but this is not always the case.
The obsession with never-ending youth has caused many people to spend barrels of money on all kinds of products promising glowing, youthful skin. Some have even turned to surgery to keep aging at bay. The lucky few, however, have naturally cracked the code to youthfulness.
In this photo of a mom and her teenage daughters, it is impossible to figure out who the mother is. As it turns out, the mom is the woman with the bun. She has certainly given her daughters her impeccable genes.
Ashton Kutcher is a Hollywood heartthrob. With his dark hair, athletic physique, and infectious smile, you would almost think he is the perfect human specimen. But everyone has flaws. Ashton Kutcher’s physical flaw is harder to spot, though: he has webbed feet.
Syndactyly of the feet, or webbed feet, is when two or more toes (usually the second and third toe) are joined together. The condition is not super rare, but luckily for Ashton Kutcher, syndactyly is completely harmless and does not interfere with daily life.
Carbs have a bad reputation in the modern world because of diet culture. Usually, people avoid carbs because of the idea that it is a fattening food group. For a select few, carbs can cause more serious trouble than just an extra pound on the scale.
Whenever someone with Auto-Brewery Syndrome eats a carbohydrate, it turns into alcohol. A large cheesy pepperoni pizza is harmless (and delicious) for most people, but it would lead to quite a boozy night for people with this condition. No need for a beer with that burger!