Many plants use colour to attract pollinators, which often possess colour vision systems well-suited for detecting flowers. Yet, to isolate the role of colour is difficult, as flowers also produce other cues. The study of florivory by Neotropical primates possessing polymorphic colour vision provides an opportunity to investigate the importance of colour directly. Here we determine whether differences in colour vision within a mixed population of wild dichromatic and trichromatic white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus imitator) affect flower foraging behaviours. We collected reflectance data for flower foods and modelled their chromatic properties to capuchin colour vision phenotypes. We collected behavioural data over 22 months spanning four years, determined the colour vision phenotype of each monkey based on amino acid variation of the L/M opsin gene from fecal DNA, and compared foraging behaviours of dichromats and trichromats. Most flowers were more conspicuous to trichromats, and trichromats foraged in small flower patches significantly more often. These data demonstrate a difference in wild primate foraging patterns based on colour vision differences, supporting the hypothesis that trichromacy enhances detection of small, ephemeral resources. This advantage, which may also extend to other foods, likely contributes to the maintenance of colour vision polymorphism in Neotropical monkeys.
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