The ventral skin of the wild Japanese newt Cynops pyrrhogaster is creamy at metamorphosis, but turns red when mature. The color of the ventral skin of laboratory (lab)-reared newts stays yellow throughout their life. However, the mechanism for the red coloration of this animal still remains unknown. In this study, we have performed ultrastructural and carotenoid analyses of the red ventrum of wild and lab-reared Japanese newts. Using electron microscopy, we observed a number of xanthophores having ring carotenoid vesicles (rcv) and homogenous carotenoid granules (hcg) in the ventral red skin of the wild newt. In the skin, β-carotene and five other kinds of carotenoids were detected by thin-layer chromatography (TLC). In the ventral yellow skin of lab-reared newts, however, only β-carotene and three other kinds of carotenoids were found. The total amount of carotenoids in the red skin of the wild adult newt was six times more than that of the yellow skin of the lab-reared newt. Moreover, rcv were more abundant in xanthophores in red skin, but hcg were more abundant in yellow skin. These results, taken together, suggest that the presence of carotenoids in rcv in xanthophores is one of the critical factors for producing the red ventral coloration of the Japanese newt C. pyrrhogaster.
ASJC Scopus subject areas