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J Exp Biol. 1991 Mar;156:1-19.

Photosensitive and photostable pigments in the retinae of Old World monkeys.

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  • 1Institute of Ophthalmology, University of London, UK.


Microspectrophotometric measurements of retinal receptors are reported for eight species of Old World monkey. Although the animals vary greatly in size, colourings and habitat, they all appear to be trichromats and the peak sensitivities of their cones invariably lie near 430, 535 and 565 nm. This consistent pattern contrasts with the results reported earlier for New World monkeys and with the results reported here for Tupaia glis. The trichromacy of frugivorous catarrhine monkeys may have co-evolved with a particular class of coloured fruit. Short-wave cones were rare in all species. The ratio of the numbers of middle-wave and long-wave cones varied between individual animals, but had an overall value close to unity. In the case of all the species examined here, we have recorded a photostable pigment in the inner segments of rods and cones. The latter pigment has a peak sensitivity close to 420 nm and an absorbance spectrum that is narrower than that of a photosensitive visual pigment.

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