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Evolution. 2003 Nov;57(11):2636-43.

Evolution and function of routine trichromatic vision in primates.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China.


Evolution of the red-green visual subsystem in trichromatic primates has been linked to foraging advantages, namely the detection of either ripe fruits or young leaves amid mature foliage. We tested competing hypotheses globally for eight primate taxa: five with routine trichromatic vision, three without. Routinely trichromatic species ingested leaves that were "red shifted" compared to background foliage more frequently than species lacking this trait. Observed choices were not the reddest possible, suggesting a preference for optimal nutritive gain. There were no similar differences for fruits although red-greenness may sometimes be important in close-range fruit selection. These results suggest that routine trichromacy evolved in a context in which leaf consumption was critical.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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