Fig Foraging by Dichromatic and Trichromatic Cebus capucinus in a Tropical Dry Forest

  • Amanda D. MelinEmail author
  • Linda M. Fedigan
  • Chihiro Hiramatsu
  • Tomohide Hiwatashi
  • Nigel Parr
  • Shoji KawamuraEmail author


Figs are important resources for frugivores, and Ficus is an ideal taxon for evaluating patterns of primate foraging related to food color. Ficus spp. can be classified as conspicuous (color change from greenish to reddish during ripening) or cryptic (green throughout ripening). To investigate the effect on foraging of color vision phenotype variation for these 2 types of figs, we conducted a 20-mo study on 4 groups of white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) in the Santa Rosa Sector of the ACG, Costa Rica between May 2004 and September 2008. We genotyped all individuals and collected behavioral data on feeding rates, acceptance indices, and foraging sequences. We found a significant effect of fig type; feeding rates and acceptance indices were higher for conspicuous figs than for cryptic figs, and subjects sniffed cryptic figs more often than conspicuous figs. We also found that dichromats sniffed more figs and had longer foraging sequences than trichromats, especially for cryptic figs. Among 6 subtypes of dichromats and trichromats, monkeys possessing the trichromat phenotype with the most spectrally separated L-M opsin alleles showed the highest acceptance index for conspicuous figs, though there were no differences in feeding rates among phenotypes. We conclude: 1) conspicuous figs are visually salient not only for trichromats but also for dichromats, 2) olfaction is important for evaluating edibility of cryptic figs, and 3) the reliance on olfaction for selecting fruit is greater in dichromats. These results indicate divergent foraging strategies among color vision phenotypes for assessing food items.


capuchin color vision Ficus foraging polymorphism 



We thank James Higham for the invitation to contribute to this issue. We thank R. Blanco Segura, M. M. Chavarria, and other staff of the Area de Conservación Guanacaste for local support and the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía (MINAE) of Costa Rica for giving us permission to conduct this study in the Santa Rosa Sector of the ACG. We thank Adrian Guadamuz for assistance with tree species identification; Michael Lemmon for data on availability of Ficus; and Adrienne Blauel, Brandon Klug, Courtney Sendall, and Laura Weckman for their assistance in the field. We thank John Addicott and Tak Fung for helpful advice on statistical analyses, and James Higham and 2 anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions on previous versions of the manuscript. This study was supported by grants from the Leakey Foundation, the Alberta Ingenuity Fund, the Animal Behavior Society, and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to A. D. Melin; NSERC and the Canada Research Chairs Program to L. M. Fedigan; the Grant-in-Aid for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellows (15-11926) to C. Hiramatsu; and the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (16405015) and (A) (19207018) from JSPS to S. Kawamura. We also thank the British Ecological Society for funding the attendance of AM to present these results at the XXII Congress of the International Primatological Society. All research protocols abide by national law and were approved by the Animal Care Committee (LESARC) of the University of Calgary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda D. Melin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Linda M. Fedigan
    • 1
  • Chihiro Hiramatsu
    • 2
    • 3
  • Tomohide Hiwatashi
    • 2
  • Nigel Parr
    • 1
  • Shoji Kawamura
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier SciencesUniversity of TokyoKashiwaJapan
  3. 3.Division of Sensory and Cognitive InformationNational Institute for Physiological ScienceOkazakiJapan

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