The effect of colour vision status on the detection and selection of fruits by tamarins (Saguinus spp.)


Smith AC, Buchanan-Smith HM, Surridge AK, Osorio D & Mundy N (2003) The effect of colour vision status on the detection and selection of fruits by tamarins (Saguinus spp.). Journal of Experimental Biology, 206 (18), pp. 3159-65.

The evolution of trichromatic colour vision by the majority of anthropoid primates has been linked to the efficient detection and selection of food, particularly ripe fruits among leaves in dappled light. Modelling of visual signals has shown that trichromats should be more efficient than dichromats at distinguishing both fruits from leaves and ripe from unripe fruits. This prediction is tested in a controlled captive setting using stimuli recreated from those actually encountered by wild tamarins (Saguinus spp.). Dietary data and reflectance spectra of Abuta fluminum fruits eaten by wild saddleback (Saguinus fuscicollis) and moustached (Saguinus mystax) tamarins and their associated leaves were collected in Peru. A. fluminum leaves, and fruits in three stages of ripeness, were reproduced and presented to captive saddleback and red-bellied tamarins (Saguinus labiatus). Trichromats were quicker to learn the task and were more efficient at selecting ripe fruits than were dichromats. This is the first time that a trichromatic foraging advantage has been demonstrated for monkeys using naturalistic stimuli with the same chromatic properties as those encountered by wild animals.

polymorphic colour vision; trichromacy; dichromacy; sex differences; individual differences; tamarin; Saguinus

Journal of Experimental Biology: Volume 206, Issue 18

Publication date30/09/2003
PublisherThe Company of Biologists