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Hormonal regulation of colour change in eyes of a cryptic fish

Journal article
Authors Helen Nilsson Sköld
D. Yngsell
Muhammad Mubashshir
Margareta Wallin
Published in Biology Open
Volume 4
Issue 2
Pages 206-211
ISSN 2046-6390
Publication year 2015
Published at The Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 206-211
Language en
Keywords Erythrophores, Iris, Physiological colour change, Pigment, Melanophores, Camouflage, NUPTIAL COLORATION, IRIS COLOR, MELANOPHORES, PIGMENT, IRIDOPHORES, DISPERSION, PROLACTIN, SEX, Biology
Subject categories Animal physiology


Colour change of the skin in lower vertebrates such as fish has been a subject of great scientific and public interest. However, colour change also takes place in eyes of fish and while an increasing amount of data indicates its importance in behaviour, very little is known about its regulation. Here, we report that both eye and skin coloration change in response to white to black background adaptation in live sand goby Pomatoschistus minutes, a bentic marine fish. Through in vitro experiments, we show that noradrenaline and melanocyte concentrating hormone (MCH) treatments cause aggregation of pigment organelles in the eye chromatophores. Daylight had no aggregating effect. Combining forskolin to elevate intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) with MCH resulted in complete pigment dispersal and darkening of the eyes, whereas combining prolactin, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) or melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) with MCH resulted in more yellow and red eyes. ACTH and MSH also induced dispersal in the melanophores, resulting in overall darker eyes. By comparing analysis of eyes, skin and peritoneum, we conclude that the regulation pattern is similar between these different tissues in this species which is relevant for the cryptic life strategy of this species. With the exception of ACTH which resulted in most prominent melanophore pigment dispersal in the eyes, all other treatments provided similar results between tissue types. To our knowledge, this is the first study that has directly analysed hormonal regulation of physiological colour change in eyes of fish.

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