Dictionary > Chromatophore


noun, plural: chromatophores
A pigment-containing cell or light-reflecting structure, especially found in fish, amphibians, reptiles, cephalopods, and crustaceans
A chromatophore is a cell or a structure containing pigment or is capable of reflecting light. It is present in fish, amphibians, reptiles, cephalopods, and crustaceans. It accounts for pigmentation, photoprotection, and colour changes in certain animals. Chromatophores may be classified based on the colors (or hue under white light) of the pigment the cells produce: (1) xanthophores (yellow), (2) erythrophores (red), (3) iridophores (reflective / iridescent), (4) leucophores (white), (5) melanophores (black/brown), and (5) cyanophores (blue). These pigments occur in cold-blooded vertebrates. Mammals, including humans, and other warm-blooded animals have only melanophores. Melanophores are a type of chromatophore that produce and store melanin. According to Thody and Shuster, melanophores in the skin may be further divided into two types based on their location: dermal melanophores and epidermal melanophores (melanocytes).1 Dermal melanophores are abundant in cold-blooded vertebrates and responsible for rapid chromomotor colour changes. Epidermal melanophores are the ones involved in producing melanin, which is a cluster of brown and black pigments that confer photoprotection from adverse effects of UV-B light exposure.
Word origin: chromato– (“color”) +‎ –phore (“bearer”)
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1 Thody, A.J., Shuster, S. (1989) Melanophores, Melanocytes and Melanin: Endocrinology and Pharmacology. In: Greaves M.W., Shuster S. (eds) Pharmacology of the Skin I. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, vol 87 / 1. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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