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See Your Inner Primate


The eye of a chimpanzee views the world in living color.

Many primates, including humans, chimpanzees, and other great apes, see the world in thousands of colors—from bold to subtle. Because of their color vision, they are able to detect nuances in the environment and color-coded social communication signals. However, most other mammals, and even some primates, see many fewer colors. The evolution of color vision in primates is a fascinating story with some interesting twists. In general, seeing colors requires specific types of photoreceptors, called cone cells, which possess pigments capable of responding to various frequencies of light. Just three kinds of cones in the retina of the eye can enable the perception of thousands of colors.

Image courtesy of photographer Suren Manvelyan, PhD.