Chromatophores and color revelation in the blue variant of the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens)

M. H. Amiri, Huda M. Shaheen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Our light and electron microscopy observations have revealed that the chromatic unit for the caudal fin in the blue variant of the Siamese fighting fish consists exclusively of dermal chromatophores comprised of compact and overlapping light-reflecting motile iridophores underlined by a layer of light absorbing melanophores. The 2 subtypes that make up about 70% of the skin tissue are located just below the basal layer of the considerably thin epidermis. The administration of K-rich saline or norepinephrine induced prompt, but gradual and reversible, changes in the color of the skin from blue to a brown-yellowish color. The induced color change is attributable either to the neurotransmitter releasing effects of the K-rich saline or to the direct effects of norepinephrine on the postsynaptic alpha adrenergic receptors. Both of these agents induced aggregation of the melanosomes within the melanophores and apparently shifted the wavelength of the light reflected by the iridophores towards the shorter (blue) end of the spectrum. Based on the distribution and architectural arrangement of the iridophores and melanophores as well as their physiological responses, we conclude that the generation of the blue coloration in this fish predominantly occurs through motile iridophores via a multilayered thin-film interference phenomenon of the non-ideal type. The presence of the underlying melanophores provides a black sheet of melanin that enhances the chroma and purity of the color.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-169
Number of pages11
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Betta splendens
  • Chromatophores
  • Color revelation
  • Siamese fighting fish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • General Materials Science
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Cell Biology


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