1. The genetic basis of colour vision in New-World primates differs from that in humans and other Old-World primates. Most New-World primate species show a polymorphism; all males are dichromats and most females trichromats. 2. In the retina of Old-World primates such as the macaque, the physiological correlates of trichromacy are well established. Comparison of the retinae in New- and Old-World species may help constrain hypotheses as to the evolution of colour vision and the pathways associated with it. 3. Ganglion cell behaviour was recorded from trichromatic and dichromatic members of a New-World species (the capuchin monkey, Cebus apella) and compared with macaque data. Despite some differences in quantitative detail (such as a temporal response extended to higher frequencies), results from trichromatic animals strongly resembled those from the macaque. 4. In particular, cells of the parvocellular (PC) pathway showed characteristic frequency-dependent changes in responsivity to luminance and chromatic modulation, cells of the magnocellular (MC) pathway showed frequency-doubled responses to chromatic modulation, and the surround of MC cells received a chromatic input revealed on changing the phase of heterochromatically modulated lights. 5. Ganglion cells of dichromats were colour-blind versions of those of trichromats. 6. This strong physiological homology is consistent with a common origin of trichromacy in New- and Old-World monkeys; in the New-World primate the presence of two pigments in the middle-to-long wavelength range permits full expression of the retinal mechanisms of trichromatic vision.
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