Color-vision polymorphism in wild capuchins (Cebus capucinus) and spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) in Costa Rica

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Abstract

New World monkeys are unique in exhibiting a color-vision polymorphism due to an allelic variation of the red-green visual pigment gene. This makes these monkeys excellent subjects for studying the adaptive evolution of the visual system from both molecular and ecological viewpoints. However, the allele frequencies of the pigments within a natural population have not been well investigated. As a first step toward understanding the relationship between vision and behavior, we conducted color-vision typing by analyzing fecal DNA from two wild groups of white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) and one group of black-handed spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) inhabiting Santa Rosa National Park of Costa Rica. All color-typed monkeys were individually identified. In C. capucinus and A. geoffroyi we found three and two pigment types, respectively, and the spectral mechanism that created one of the two Ateles pigments was found to be novel. In one Cebus group and the Ateles group, all alleles were present, whereas in the other Cebus group only two alleles were found, with one allele predominating. This was likely due to the effect of close inbreeding, indicating that wild populations can exhibit a variety of allele compositions. This result also suggests that the color-vision polymorphism can be easily distorted by natural factors, such as inbreeding, skewing the population structure. Am. J. Primatol. 67:447–461, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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