Animals with various degrees of inbreeding, some of which are albino, are frequently used in biological research. Albinos do not produce melanin and it is therefore absent from the cochlea. While the function of melanin is unknown, it has been hypothesized that it is involved in cochlear homeostasis. It is possible then, that age-related degeneration may be affected by the presence or absence of melanin. We therefore evaluated young (2-6 months old) and aged (24-36 months old) cochleas in 4 different rat strains: albino Fischer 344 and Lewis rats and pigmented Lewis-Brown Norway F1 rats and Brown Norway rats. Cochlear morphology was the same across all strains of young adult animals with the exception that the pigmented animals had small, darkly stained granules in the stria vascularis. The aged pigmented animals all had large granules as well as small ones. Degeneration of spiral ganglion cells in the apical region of the ganglion had occurred in the old animals of all strains. Strial degeneration at the apex was also present in aged animals. There was no correlation between the presence or absence of melanin and the magnitude of cochlear degenerative changes in the aged animals. The presence or absence of melanin therefore, appears to have no effect on cochlear degeneration in the aged rat cochlea.