Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Colour vision aids the hunt

Primates with three types of colour receptor in their eyes capture more insect prey than those whose eyes have two. But the latter are not without advantage — they are better at detecting and catching camouflaged prey.

The primates of mainland Africa and Asia all have three types of colour receptor, making them 'trichromats'. Some in the Americas can be trichromat or dichromat. Hannah Buchanan-Smith at the University of Stirling, UK, and her colleagues studied trichromatic and dichromatic tamarins (Saguinus spp.; pictured) in captivity and in the field.

Other research has shown that trichromacy may also assist primates in spotting ripe fruits and young leaves. The persistence of dichromacy may result from the advantage it provides in detecting concealed prey, the authors say.


Anim. Behav. (2012)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Colour vision aids the hunt. Nature 481, 116 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing