Hostname: page-component-5db6c4db9b-s6gjx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-25T18:51:34.091Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Color vision in the black howler monkey (Alouatta caraya)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2008

Laboratory of Neurosciences and Behaviour, University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
Laboratory of Neurosciences and Behaviour, University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
Laboratory of Neurosciences and Behaviour, University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
Laboratory of Neurosciences and Behaviour, University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
Zoological Gardens of Brasília Foundation, Brasilia, Brazil
Laboratory of Neurosciences and Behaviour, University of Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Valdir Filgueiras Pessoa, Laboratório de Neurociências e Comportamento, CFS, IB, Universidade de Brasília, CEP 70910-900, Brasília, DF, Brazil. E-mail:


Electrophysiological and molecular genetic studies have shown that howler monkeys (Alouatta) are unique among all studied platyrrhines: they have the potential to display trichromatic color vision among males and females. This study examined the color discrimination abilities of four howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya) through a series of tasks involving a behavioral paradigm of discrimination learning. The animals were maintained and housed as a group in the Zoological Gardens of Brasília and were tested in their own home cages. Stimuli consisting of pairs of Munsell color chips were presented in random brightness values to assure that discriminations were based on color rather than brightness cues. All the animals (three males, one female) successfully discriminated all the stimulus pairs, including those that would be expected to be difficult for a dichromatic monkey. These results are consistent with the earlier predictions suggesting that howler monkeys are routinely trichromatic.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Arrese, C.A., Hart, N.S., Tomas, N., Beazley, L.D. & Shand, J. (2002). Trichromacy in Australian marsupials. Current Biology 12, 657660.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Braza, F., Alvarez, F. & Azcarate, T. (1981). Behavior of the red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus) in the Llanos of Venezuela. Primates 22, 459473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
De Valois, R.L. & De Valois, K.K. (1993). A multi-stage color model. Vision Research 33, 10531065.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dominy, N.J. & Lucas, P.W. (2001). Ecological importance of trichromatic vision to primates. Nature 410, 363366.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dulai, K.S., Bowmaker, J.K., Mollon, J.K. & Hunt, D.M. (1994). Sequence divergence, polymorphism and evolution of middle-wave and long-wave pigment genes of Great Apes and Old World monkeys. Vision Research 34, 24832492.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dusenbery, D.B. (1992). Sensory Ecology. How Organisms Acquire and Respond to Information. New York: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
Gellerman, L.W. (1933). Chance orders of alternating stimuli in visual discrimination experiments. Journal of Genetic Psychology 42, 206208.Google Scholar
Gomes, U.R, Pessoa, D.M.A., Tomaz, C. & Pessoa, V.F. (2002). Color vision perception in the capuchin monkey (Cebus apella): A re-evaluation of procedures using Munsell papers. Behavioural Brain Research 129, 153157.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hemmi, J.M. & Mark, R.F. (1998). Visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and retinal magnification in a marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). Journal of Comparative Physiology A 183, 379387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs, G.H. (1993). The distribution and nature of colour vision among the mammals. Biological Reviews 68, 413471.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jacobs, G.H. (1999). Prospects for trichromatic color vision in male Cebus monkeys. Behavioural Brain Research 12, 101109.Google Scholar
Jacobs, G.H. (2007). New World Monkeys and Color. International Journal of Primatology 28, 729759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs, G.H. & Deegan, J.F. (1999). Uniformity of colour vision in Old World monkeys. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 266, 20232028.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jacobs, G.H., Neitz, M., Deegan, J.F. & Neitz, J. (1996). Trichromatic colour vision in New World monkeys. Nature 382, 156158.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kainz, P.M., Neitz, J. & Neitz, M. (1998). Recent evolution of uniform trichromacy in a New World monkey. Vision Research 38, 33153320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miranda, J.M.D. & Passos, F.C. (2004). Hábito alimentar de Alouatta guariba (Humboldt) (Primates, Atelidae) em Floresta de Araucária, Paraná, Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia 21, 821826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pessoa, D.M.A., Araújo, M.F.P., Tomaz, C. & Pessoa, V.F. (2003). Colour discrimination learning in black-handed tamarin (Saguinus midas niger). Primates 44, 413418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pessoa, D.M., Cunha, J.F., Tomaz, C. & Pessoa, V.F. (2005a). Colour discrimination in the blacktufted-ear marmoset (Callitrhix penicillata): Ecological implications. Folia Primatologica 76, 125134.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pessoa, D.M.A., Perini, E.S., Carvalho, L.S., Tomaz, C. & Pessoa, V.F. (2005b). Color vision in Leontopithecus chrysomelas: A behavioral study. International Journal of Primatology 26, 147158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prado, C.C., Sousa, F.L.L., Pessoa, D.M.A. & Pessoa, V.F. (2008). Behavioural evidence of sex-linked colour vision polymorphism in the squirrel monkey Saimiri ustus. Folia Primatologica 79, 172184.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Regan, B.C, Julliot, C., Simmen, B., Viénot, F., Charles-Dominique, P. & Mollon, J.D. (1998). Frugivory and colour vision in Alouatta seniculus, a trichromatic platyrrhine monkey. Vision Research 38, 33213327.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Savage, A., Dronzek, L.A. & Snowdon, C.T. (1987). Color discrimination by the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus oedipus) and its relation to fruit colorations. Folia Primatologica 49, 5769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sharpe, L.T., Stockman, A., Jagle, H. & Nathans, J. (1999). Opsin genes, cone photopigments, color vision and color blindness. In Color Vision: From Genes to Perception, ed. Gegenfurtner, K.R. & Sharpe, L.T., pp. 351. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Silveira, L.C.L., Saito, C.A., Da Silva Filho, M., Bowmaker, J.K., Kremers, J. & Lee, B.B. (2007). Physiological properties of photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells from a trichromatic platyrrhine: The howler monkey, Alouatta sp. In 19th Symposium of the International Colour Vision Society Abstracts Book, ed. Silveira, L.C.L., Ventura, D.F. & Lee, B.B., p. 69. Belém, Brazil: EDUFPA.Google Scholar
Stoner, K.E., Riba-Hernández, P. & Lucas, P.W. (2005). Comparative use of color vision for frugivory by sympatric species of platyrrhines. American Journal of Primatology 67, 399409.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Urbani, B. (2003). Utilización del estrato vertical por el mono aullador de manto (Alouatta palliata) en isla Colón, Panamá. Antropo 4, 2933.Google Scholar
Zeki, S. (1999). Inner Vision. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar