Color Vision Deficiencies and the Evolution of Color Vision in Primates Essay

Color Vision Deficiencies and the Evolution of Color Vision in Primates Essay

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The ability to see color is something that many people take for granted. But, there are many people who go about life thinking that their vision is “normal,” when they are really experiencing their sense of sight through a color vision deficiency.
A typical person relies on the color of fruit to determine its ripeness. Looking at a green banana signals to the brain that it is not ripe nor is it ready to be eaten; while looking at a brown banana signals that it is overripe and should be thrown away or used for baking purposes. What if you could not see the color and had to rely on the commonly overlooked details, like shape or texture to identify the fruit?
Humans are not the only ones who can have color vision deficiencies as it is typical in a variety of animal species. Primate color vision has sparked interest of researchers because it is highly variable (Osorio, Smith, Vorobyev, & Buchanan-Smith, 2004). Dichromatic vision is the norm for many mammals, not including humans. As for primates, New World monkeys show a polymorphism of color vision as some are dichromatic, while others are trichromatic (Saito et al. 2003). Old world monkeys and the howler monkey, a New World monkey, are trichromats. This is due to a gene duplication different from that of Old World monkeys (Osorio et al.).

Brief History of primates and color vision:
Records state that the first primates appeared at 80-90 Ma (Jacobs, 2009). It is believed that the primates living at the time were nocturnal. Similar to other eutherian mammals (a mammal that is indigenous to North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia), primates had dichromatic color vision where their retinas most likely “featured single representative pigments from the SWS1 (...


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Leonhardt, S.D., Tung, J., Camden, J.B., Leal, M., & Drea, C.M. (2008). Seeing red: behavioral evidence of trichromatic color vision in strepsirrhine primates. Behavioral Ecology, 11, 1-12.
Osorio, D., Smith, A.C., Vorobyev, M., & Buchanan-Smith H.M. (2004) Detection of Fruit and the Selection of Primate Visual Pigments for Color Vision. The American Naturalist, 164, 696-708.
Simunovic, M.P. (2010) Colour vision deficiency. Eye. 24, 747-755.
Saito, A., Mikami, A., Hasegawa, T., Koida, K., Terao, K., Koike, S., Onishi, A., Takenaka, O.,
Teramoto, M., Mori, Y. (2003). Behavioral evidence of color vision deficiency in a protanomalia chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Primates. 44, 171-176.

Additional websites used as references: http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/wildlife/monkeys/monkey_oldworld.html
http://www.cabrillo.edu/~crsmith/monkeycomparisons.html

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