Effect of color vision phenotype on the foraging of wild white-faced capuchins, Cebus capucinus

Erin R. Vogel, Maureen Neitz, Nathaniel J. Dominy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


New World monkeys exhibit a color vision polymorphism. It results from allelic variation of the single-locus middle-to-long wavelength opsin gene on the X chromosome. Females that are heterozygous for the gene possess trichromatic vision. All other individuals possess dichromatic vision. The prevailing hypothesis for the maintenance of the color vision polymorphism is through a consistent fitness advantage to heterozygous trichromatic females. Such females are predicted to be more efficient than dichromats when detecting and selecting fruit. Recent experiments with captive callitrichid primates provided support for this hypothesis by demonstrating that color vision phenotype affects behavioral responses to contrived food targets. Yet, the assumptions that trichromatic females acquire more calories from fruit, or that number of offspring is linked to caloric intake, remain untested. Here, we assess if, in the wild, heterozygous trichromatic individuals in a group of white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) enjoy an energetic advantage over dichromats when foraging on fruit. Contrary to the assumptions of previous theoretical and experimental studies, our analysis of C. capucinus foraging behavior shows that trichromats do not differ from dichromats in their fruit or energy acquisition rates. For white-faced capuchins, the advantage of trichromatic vision may be related to the detection of predators, animal prey, or fruit under mesopic conditions. This result demonstrates the importance of using a fitness currency that is relevant to individual animals to test evolutionary hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-297
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


  • Frugivory
  • M/L cone opsin polymorphism
  • Primates
  • Trichromatic vision

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