Melanophore death and disappearance produces color metamorphosis in the polychromatic Midas cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum)

Cell Tissue Res. 1988 Jul;253(1):9-14. doi: 10.1007/BF00221733.


We describe the histological basis of color metamorphosis in the polychromatic Midas cichlid, Cichlasoma citrinellum. Eight percent of the individuals in a natural population transform from gray with black markings to orange, simultaneously losing their ability to adjust coloration in response to background and social context. This trait is inherited. Light- and electron microscopy revealed that this transformation is a two-step process. First, the melanophores die, then macrophage-like cells remove the debris. As a result of this initial process, the underlying xanthophores become visible, producing the orange coloration. A similar process may occur in individuals that further transform to white, or go directly from gray to white.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Color
  • Melanins / analysis
  • Melanophores / physiology*
  • Melanophores / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Perches / physiology*
  • Perciformes / physiology*
  • Skin Pigmentation*


  • Melanins