• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of pnasPNASInfo for AuthorsSubscriptionsAboutThis Article
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 23, 1996; 93(2): 577–581.

Primate photopigments and primate color vision.


The past 15 years have brought much progress in our understanding of several basic features of primate color vision. There has been particular success in cataloging the spectral properties of the cone photopigments found in retinas of a number of primate species and in elucidating the relationship between cone opsin genes and their photopigment products. Direct studies of color vision show that there are several modal patterns of color vision among groupings of primates: (i) Old World monkeys, apes, and humans all enjoy trichromatic color vision, although the former two groups do not seem prone to the polymorphic variations in color vision that are characteristic of people; (ii) most species of New World monkeys are highly polymorphic, with individual animals having any of several types of dichromatic or trichromatic color vision; (iii) less is known about color vision in prosimians, but evidence suggests that at least some diurnal species have dichromatic color vision; and (iv) some nocturnal primates may lack color vision completely. In many cases the photopigments and photopigment gene arrangements underlying these patterns have been revealed and, as a result, hints are emerging about the evolution of color vision among the primates.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.0M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Jacobs GH. The distribution and nature of colour vision among the mammals. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 1993 Aug;68(3):413–471. [PubMed]
  • JACOBS GH. Spectral sensitivity and colo vision of the squirrel moneky. J Comp Physiol Psychol. 1963 Jun;56:616–621. [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH. Within-species variations in visual capacity among squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus): color vision. Vision Res. 1984;24(10):1267–1277. [PubMed]
  • Mollon JD, Bowmaker JK, Jacobs GH. Variations of colour vision in a New World primate can be explained by polymorphism of retinal photopigments. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1984 Sep 22;222(1228):373–399. [PubMed]
  • Bowmaker JK, Jacobs GH, Spiegelhalter DJ, Mollon JD. Two types of trichromatic squirrel monkey share a pigment in the red-green spectral region. Vision Res. 1985;25(12):1937–1946. [PubMed]
  • Bowmaker JK, Jacobs GH, Mollon JD. Polymorphism of photopigments in the squirrel monkey: a sixth phenotype. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1987 Aug 21;231(1264):383–390. [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH, Neitz J. Polymorphism of the middle wavelength cone in two species of South American monkey: Cebus apella and Callicebus moloch. Vision Res. 1987;27(8):1263–1268. [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH, Neitz J, Crognale M. Color vision polymorphism and its photopigment basis in a callitrichid monkey (Saguinus fuscicollis). Vision Res. 1987;27(12):2089–2100. [PubMed]
  • Travis DS, Bowmaker JK, Mollon JD. Polymorphism of visual pigments in a callitrichid monkey. Vision Res. 1988;28(4):481–490. [PubMed]
  • Tovée MJ, Bowmaker JK, Mollon JD. The relationship between cone pigments and behavioural sensitivity in a New World monkey (Callithrix jacchus jacchus). Vision Res. 1992 May;32(5):867–878. [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH, Neitz J. Inheritance of color vision in a New World monkey (Saimiri sciureus). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1987 Apr;84(8):2545–2549. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH, Neitz J, Neitz M. Genetic basis of polymorphism in the color vision of platyrrhine monkeys. Vision Res. 1993 Feb;33(3):269–274. [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH, Neitz J. Color vision in squirrel monkeys: sex-related differences suggest the mode of inheritance. Vision Res. 1985;25(1):141–143. [PubMed]
  • Nathans J, Thomas D, Hogness DS. Molecular genetics of human color vision: the genes encoding blue, green, and red pigments. Science. 1986 Apr 11;232(4747):193–202. [PubMed]
  • Williams AJ, Hunt DM, Bowmaker JK, Mollon JD. The polymorphic photopigments of the marmoset: spectral tuning and genetic basis. EMBO J. 1992 Jun;11(6):2039–2045. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Baylor DA, Nunn BJ, Schnapf JL. Spectral sensitivity of cones of the monkey Macaca fascicularis. J Physiol. 1987 Sep;390:145–160. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bowmaker JK, Astell S, Hunt DM, Mollon JD. Photosensitive and photostable pigments in the retinae of Old World monkeys. J Exp Biol. 1991 Mar;156:1–19. [PubMed]
  • Ibbotson RE, Hunt DM, Bowmaker JK, Mollon JD. Sequence divergence and copy number of the middle- and long-wave photopigment genes in Old World monkeys. Proc Biol Sci. 1992 Feb 22;247(1319):145–154. [PubMed]
  • Deeb SS, Jorgensen AL, Battisti L, Iwasaki L, Motulsky AG. Sequence divergence of the red and green visual pigments in great apes and humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Jul 19;91(15):7262–7266. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Dulai KS, Bowmaker JK, Mollon JD, Hunt DM. Sequence divergence, polymorphism and evolution of the middle-wave and long-wave visual pigment genes of great apes and Old World monkeys. Vision Res. 1994 Oct;34(19):2483–2491. [PubMed]
  • Dartnall HJ, Bowmaker JK, Mollon JD. Human visual pigments: microspectrophotometric results from the eyes of seven persons. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1983 Nov 22;220(1218):115–130. [PubMed]
  • Schnapf JL, Kraft TW, Baylor DA. Spectral sensitivity of human cone photoreceptors. Nature. 325(6103):439–441. [PubMed]
  • Merbs SL, Nathans J. Absorption spectra of human cone pigments. Nature. 1992 Apr 2;356(6368):433–435. [PubMed]
  • Asenjo AB, Rim J, Oprian DD. Molecular determinants of human red/green color discrimination. Neuron. 1994 May;12(5):1131–1138. [PubMed]
  • Piantanida T. Polymorphism of human color vision. Am J Optom Physiol Opt. 1976 Oct;53(10):647–657. [PubMed]
  • DeMarco P, Pokorny J, Smith VC. Full-spectrum cone sensitivity functions for X-chromosome-linked anomalous trichromats. J Opt Soc Am A. 1992 Sep;9(9):1465–1476. [PubMed]
  • Neitz J, Jacobs GH. Polymorphism in normal human color vision and its mechanism. Vision Res. 1990;30(4):621–636. [PubMed]
  • Winderickx J, Lindsey DT, Sanocki E, Teller DY, Motulsky AG, Deeb SS. Polymorphism in red photopigment underlies variation in colour matching. Nature. 1992 Apr 2;356(6368):431–433. [PubMed]
  • He JC, Shevell SK. Individual differences in cone photopigments of normal trichromats measured by dual Rayleigh-type color matches. Vision Res. 1994 Feb;34(3):367–376. [PubMed]
  • Lutze M, Cox NJ, Smith VC, Pokorny J. Genetic studies of variation in Rayleigh and photometric matches in normal trichromats. Vision Res. 1990;30(1):149–162. [PubMed]
  • Jordan G, Mollon JD. Rayleigh matches and unique green. Vision Res. 1995 Mar;35(5):613–620. [PubMed]
  • Nathans J, Piantanida TP, Eddy RL, Shows TB, Hogness DS. Molecular genetics of inherited variation in human color vision. Science. 1986 Apr 11;232(4747):203–210. [PubMed]
  • Neitz M, Neitz J. Numbers and ratios of visual pigment genes for normal red-green color vision. Science. 1995 Feb 17;267(5200):1013–1016. [PubMed]
  • Deeb SS, Lindsey DT, Hibiya Y, Sanocki E, Winderickx J, Teller DY, Motulsky AG. Genotype-phenotype relationships in human red/green color-vision defects: molecular and psychophysical studies. Am J Hum Genet. 1992 Oct;51(4):687–700. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Neitz M, Neitz J, Jacobs GH. Spectral tuning of pigments underlying red-green color vision. Science. 1991 May 17;252(5008):971–974. [PubMed]
  • Merbs SL, Nathans J. Absorption spectra of the hybrid pigments responsible for anomalous color vision. Science. 1992 Oct 16;258(5081):464–466. [PubMed]
  • Neitz J, Neitz M, Jacobs GH. More than three different cone pigments among people with normal color vision. Vision Res. 1993 Jan;33(1):117–122. [PubMed]
  • Neitz M, Neitz J, Jacobs GH. Genetic basis of photopigment variations in human dichromats. Vision Res. 1995 Aug;35(15):2095–2103. [PubMed]
  • Wikler KC, Rakic P. Distribution of photoreceptor subtypes in the retina of diurnal and nocturnal primates. J Neurosci. 1990 Oct;10(10):3390–3401. [PubMed]
  • Jacobs GH, Deegan JF, 2nd, Neitz J, Crognale MA, Neitz M. Photopigments and color vision in the nocturnal monkey, Aotus. Vision Res. 1993 Sep;33(13):1773–1783. [PubMed]
  • Yokoyama S, Yokoyama R. Molecular evolution of human visual pigment genes. Mol Biol Evol. 1989 Mar;6(2):186–197. [PubMed]
  • Goldsmith TH. Optimization, constraint, and history in the evolution of eyes. Q Rev Biol. 1990 Sep;65(3):281–322. [PubMed]
  • Nagle MG, Osorio D. The tuning of human photopigments may minimize red-green chromatic signals in natural conditions. Proc Biol Sci. 1993 Jun 22;252(1335):209–213. [PubMed]

Articles from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America are provided here courtesy of National Academy of Sciences


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...