Crazy Camouflage
How Does a Flounder Blend in with Its Environment?
All plants and animals are made of tiny building blocks called cells. Some skin cells, called chromatophores (krow-MAT-uh-forz), contain colors, or pigments, that can change the skin's appearance.

I Lost'er But I Flounder

flounder blending into the sea floorSome flounders are masters of disguise, able to blend into a variety of backgrounds. Their skin can imitate the different colors and textures found on the seafloor. They can look like sand one minute, and a rocky bottom the next. One scientist even put a flounder against a checkerboard to see what would happen. In less than a minute, the flounder's body started to resemble the black and white squares of the gameboard!

Chromatophores change because they get a message from the brain. When flounders swim near the surface to feed, their skin becomes almost see-through. This helps them avoid predators below them.
 

Why Can't Humans Change Their Skin to Match Their Surroundings?
Unlike some lucky sea animals, humans cannot change the color or pattern of their skin. (If we could, Halloween would never be the same!) Like all mammals, humans have only a single chromatophore, called a melanophore, which contains a colored chemical called melanin (MEH-la-nuhn). Melanin causes the skin to darken and creates skin colors from pink to brown to black. It also protects the skin from the Sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When the skin is exposed to the Sun, more melanin is produced.