Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29117. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029117. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

The evolution of the multicoloured face of mandrills: insights from the perceptual space of colour vision.

Author information

  • 1Department of Evolutionary Biology and Animal Ecology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


Multicomponent signals consist of several traits that are perceived as a whole. Although many animals rely on multicomponent signals to communicate, the selective pressures shaping these signals are still poorly understood. Previous work has mainly investigated the evolution of multicomponent signals by studying each trait individually, which may not accurately reflect the selective pressures exerted by the holistic perception of signal receivers. Here, we study the design of the multicoloured face of an Old World primate, the mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), in relation to two aspects of signalling that are expected to be selected by receivers: conspicuousness and information. Using reflectance data on the blue and red colours of the faces of 34 males and a new method of hue vectorisation in a perceptual space of colour vision, we show that the blue hue maximises contrasts to both the red hue and the foliage background colouration, thereby increasing the conspicuousness of the whole display. We further show that although blue saturation, red saturation and the contrast between blue and red colours are all correlated with dominance, dominance is most accurately indicated by the blue-red contrast. Taken together our results suggest that the evolution of blue and red facial colours in male mandrills are not independent and are likely driven by the holistic perception of conspecifics. In this view, we propose that the multicoloured face of mandrills acts as a multicomponent signal. Last, we show that information accuracy increases with the conspicuousness of the whole display, indicating that both aspects of signalling can evolve in concert.

© 2011 Renoult et al.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk