Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Yellow, reddish, or dark brown pigment that is one of the components of coloration in plants and animals (along with collagen, hemoglobin, carotene, and other factors). In animals, melanin is one of the primary pigments responsible for skin color. Melanin is produced by specialized epidermal cells called melanocytes. In animals, melanin is found in skin, hair, and the iris of the eye. A major function of melanin in the skin is to absorb ultraviolet radiation and protect the deeper tissues; in the eye, melanin helps keep the inner chamber of the eyeball completely dark. This type of brown melanin is also referred to as eumelanin.

See pelage.

Cf. phaeomelanin.

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