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Chromatophores and color change in the lizard, Anolis carolinensis

Summary

The skin of the lizard, Anolis carolinensis, changes rapidly from bright green to a dark brown color in response to melanophore stimulating hormone (MSH). Chromatophores responsible for color changes of the skin are xanthophores which lie just beneath the basal lamina containing pterinosomes and carotenoid vesicles. Iridophores lying immediately below the xanthophores contain regularly arranged rows of reflecting platelets. Melanophores containing melanosomes are present immediately below the iridophores. The ultrastructural features of these chromatophores and their pigmentary organelles are described. The color of Anolis skin is determined by the position of the melanosomes within the melanophores which is regulated by MSH and other hormones such as norepinephrine. Skins are green when melanosomes are located in a perinuclear position within melanophores. In response to MSH, they migrate into the terminal processes of the melanophores which overlie the xanthophores above, thus effectively preventing light penetration to the iridophores below, resulting in skins becoming brown. The structural and functional characteristics of Anolis chromatophores are compared to the dermal chromatophore unit of the frog.

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This study was supported in part by GB-8347 from the National Science Foundation.

Contribution No. 244, Department of Biology, Wayne State University.

The authors are indebted to Dr. Joseph T. Bagnara for his encouragement during the study and to Dr. Wayne Ferris for his advice and the use of his electron microscope laboratory.

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Taylor, J.D., Hadley, M.E. Chromatophores and color change in the lizard, Anolis carolinensis . Z. Zellforsch. 104, 282–294 (1970). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00309737

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Key-Words

  • Pigment cells
  • Melanophore stimulating hormone