Special cells in the skin and the eye that synthesise melanin pigments. Clusters of melanocytes often appear on the skin as moles.

In fish and reptiles, the pigments are stored in melanosomes (chromatophores) that can be redistributed in the cytoplasm to change pigment patterns.

Synonyms: melanodendrocyte.

Origin: melano-+ G. + kytos, a hollow (cell)

(29 Sep 1997)