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Zoolog Sci. 1998 Jun 1;15(3):323-33. doi: 10.2108/zsj.15.323.

The Blue Coloration of the Common Surgeonfish, Paracanthurus hepatus-II. Color Revelation and Color Changes.


Measurements of spectral reflectance from the sky-blue portion of skin from the common surgeonfish, Paracanthurus hepatus, showed a relatively steep peak at around 490 nm. We consider that a multilayer thin-film interference phenomenon of the non-ideal type, which occurs in stacks of very thin light-reflecting platelets in iridophores of that region, is primarily responsible for the revelation of that hue. The structural organization of the iridophore closely resembles that of bluish damselfish species, although one difference is the presence of iridophores in a monolayer in the damselfish compared to the double layer of iridophores in the uppermost part of the dermis of surgeonfish. If compared with the vivid cobalt blue tone of the damselfish, the purity of the blue hue of the surgeonfish is rather low. This may be ascribable mainly to the double layer of iridophores in the latter since incident lightrays are complicatedly reflected and scattered in the strata. The dark-blue hue of the characteristic scissors-shaped pattern on the trunk of surgeonfish is mainly due to the dense population of melanophores, because iridophores are only present there in a scattered fashion. Photographic and spectral reflectance studies in vivo, as well as photomicrographic, photo-electric, and spectrometric examinations of the state of chromatophores in skin specimens in vitro, indicate that both melanophores and iridophores are motile. Physiological analyses disclosed that melanophores are under the control of the sympathetic nervous and the endocrine systems, while iridophores are regulated mainly by nerves. The body color of surgeonfish shows circadian changes, and becomes paler at night; this effect may be mediated by the pineal hormone, melatonin, which aggregates pigment in melanophores.

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