The pigmentation of many animals is adapted to their environment and aids in their survival (see mimicry; protective coloration). In some animals the pigment is changeable; the flounder and the squid, for example, are capable of adapting themselves to the color of their background and thus often of escaping detection by their enemies. The exact mechanism of such changeability is not clearly understood, but in most cases it is due primarily to visual stimulation. In the squid the chromatophores (containing melanin granules) are controlled by muscles and can expand from an almost invisible pinpoint to 60 times their original size, giving the whole animal a dark appearance. Pigmentation changes are also at least partially controlled by hormones—as, in part, is pigmentation synthesis itself.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.