Skin pigmentation

The cells which produce skin pigmentation are derived from neural crest cells. These cells, known as chromophores, disperse to various portions of the body, and while they are easily seen in the epidermally derived tissues, they may also be present, but hidden, in the internal organs. Pigment cells may be found in the adrenal glands, peritoneal linings, meninges, or muscles of various species.

Melanin secreting cells are called melanocytes, or melanophores. They produce a black to light brown pigment.

Xanthrophores produce yellow pigments.

Erythrophores produce red pigments.

Iridophores produce iridescent pigments.

In some species the pigment chemicals are dispersed from the chromophores into the cells of the surrounding hair or feathers, and the epidermis to give the animal its basic color pattern. Some fish, amphibians, and reptiles have the ability to change their colors rapidly by either dispersing or concentrating pigments within the chromophores.