Homann, Peter H. Institute of Molecular Biophysics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.
Last reviewed:March 2020
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- Structural colors
- Role of pigments
- Chemical classes of pigments
- Pigment disposition
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A property of biological materials that imparts coloration. Biological pigmentation results from organic compounds or substances (often termed biochromes) that provide a characteristic color to biological cells and tissues, including those of animals and plants (Fig. 1). In general, pigmentation determines the quantity and quality of reflected visible light. The characteristics of light returning from living matter are a function of its chemical and physical properties. Therefore, the characteristics are not only due to pigments proper, but can be of structural origin as well. In addition, it should be noted that the term visible light, as used here, refers to the spectral sensitivity of the human eye. Such a restricted application of the word pigmentation is useful in the description of colors seen by humans, but it is not appropriate in a wider biological context. For example, flowers that appear colorless may be "pigmented" to bees because the eyes of these insects are sensitive to the near-ultraviolet and can detect the attenuation of incident solar radiation by ultraviolet-absorbing flower pigments. See also: Color; Color vision; Flower; Light; Plant pigment; Vision
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