Rapid color change in fish and amphibians - function, regulation, and emerging applications

Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2013 Jan;26(1):29-38. doi: 10.1111/pcmr.12040. Epub 2012 Nov 16.


Physiological color change is important for background matching, thermoregulation as well as signaling and is in vertebrates mediated by synchronous intracellular transport of pigmented organelles in chromatophores. We describe functions of and animal situations where color change occurs. A summary of endogenous and external factors that regulate this color change in fish and amphibians is provided, with special emphasis on extracellular stimuli. We describe not only color change in skin, but also highlight studies on color change that occurs using chromatophores in other areas such as iris and on the inside of the body. In addition, we discuss the growing field that applies melanophores and skin color in toxicology and as biosensors, and point out research areas with future potential.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology*
  • Toxicology