Tag Archives: melanophores

Spots and stripes aren’t just random- they’re magnetic!

Zebra eyeHow did the zebra REALLY get those stripes? By studying zebraFISH, we might be able to figure it out! And these distinctive color patterns have a pretty interesting explanation.

In certain zebrafish, the two skin cells involved in striping are called melanophores and xanthophores. And they behave like magnets! When they come in contact with one another, melanophores move away and the xanthophores chase them down. This cell interaction creates a separation between the different pigmented cells- and a beautiful distinctive striped skin pattern!

This phenomenon wasn’t seen in the skin of a type of zebrafish with ‘fuzzier’ stripes, only in zebrafish with distinct stripes. Further research investigating the gene mutations involved in the proteins in pigmented cells’ membranes might explain distinct patterns in other animals, too. Cheetahs, zebras, dalmatians- think of all the animals we could learn about with the help of this little fish!┬áCheck out the video in the link to SEE these cells chasing and running away from each other, it’s pretty cool.

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/01/video-zebrafish-stripes-caused-cells-chase-each-other