The nature and role of pigments of marine invertebrates†
Covering: 1980 to 2005
Marine animals, especially those from tropical waters, are often brilliantly coloured, and bright colouration is widespread in both sessile and non-sessile invertebrates. These spectacular natural colours are common in species inhabiting shallow waters, and appear not only in animals exposed to bright light, but also in those living in dark areas where colours are visible only with artificial illumination. Marine organisms also show variation in colour with depth and geographical location, and display great variety in colour patterning. These colour characteristics are the result of several different processes, and serve various purposes – the distribution and function of pigments seems to vary between invertebrate groups. In addition to playing an important role in how marine organisms interact, pigments may be involved in physiological processes. Although nitrogenous pigments predominate, marine organisms contain pigments belonging to all the major strutural classes of natural products, as well as some that are unique to the marine environment. This review discusses the nature and significance of such pigments, the chemical and biological processes involved, the factors responsible for and affecting bright colourations, as well as their evolution and speculation as to their function.