Colorblind Monkeys

Eyes work by utilizing special cells called cones and rods. Cones perceive color; rods allow us to see in low light environments. When the cones don’t work properly, colorblindness, either for specific colors or all of them, can occur.

It is often viewed as a negative. Who, after all, would want to miss out on the rich world of color? From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense to see colors in order to differentiate between poisonous and harmless creatures or distinguish ripe foods from the rest. Despite this, almost all male monkeys and a fair amount of females in Central and South America are colorblind. While it is unclear what made these monkeys develop this trait, it is now be seen as an evolutionary advantage and not a defect.

These special monkeys would be much better than humans at spotting other animals. Too many colors can distract or overwhelm, therefore, in a colorful environment like the rainforests these monkeys inhabit, seeing less color could be an advantage. It allows the primates to pay more attention to patterns rather than colors and see camouflaged predators and prey, in addition to seeing well in low light environments. When there is not much light, there also is little color, leaving those who rely on it disadvantaged. Since these monkeys are already used to living in a colorless world, this has less effect on them than it does on other primates. Humans have recognized the pros of colorblindness in the past. In World War 2, for example, colorblind men were assigned to get past camouflaged Germans and find possible bombing targets.

What makes these monkeys so special is that a fair amount of females can still see color. Scientists are not sure what the evolutionary benefit of groups seeing in both black and white and color are. But as they study color and eyes more, it is exciting to think about what discoveries could be made.

Although our eyes are adept at distinguishing colors, they are not perfect. Konica Minolta Sensing features a wide variety of color measurement spectrophotometers and colorimeters that can measure a multitude of different surfaces and pick up minute differences unnoticeable to humans, making them great for ensuring uniformity across widely produced products. Get one for your company today.

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