Histology of melanic flank and opercular color pattern elements in the firemouth cichlid, Thorichthys meeki



Dark melanic color pattern elements, such as bars, stripes, and spots, are common in the skin of fishes, and result from the differential distribution and activity of melanin-containing chromatophores (melanophores). We determined the histological basis of two melanic color pattern elements in the integument of the Firemouth Cichlid, Thorichthys meeki. Vertical bars on the flanks were formed by three layers of dermal melanophores, whereas opercular spots were formed by four layers (two lateral and two medial) in the integument surrounding the opercular bones. Pretreatment of opercular tissue with potassium and sodium salts effectively concentrated or dispersed intracellular melanosomes. Regional differences in epidermal structure, scale distribution, and connective tissues were also identified. J. Morphol. 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.