Most New World monkey species have both dichromatic and trichromatic individuals present in the same population. The selective forces acting to maintain the variation are hotly debated and are relevant to the evolution of the ‘routine’ trichromatic colour vision found in catarrhine primates. While trichromats have a foraging advantage for red food compared with dichromats, visual tasks which dichromats perform better have received less attention. Here we examine the effects of light intensity on foraging success among marmosets. We find that dichromats outperform trichomats when foraging in shade, but not in sun. The simplest explanation is that dichromats pay more attention to achromatic cues than trichromats. However, dichromats did not show a preference for foraging in shade compared with trichromats. Our results reveal several interesting parallels with a recent study in capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus), and suggest that dichromat advantage for certain tasks contributes to maintenance of the colour vision polymorphism.
Keywords: colour vision, trichromacy, opsin, callitrichid