When it comes to lemurs, not all of them are capable of seeing all natural colors. For the most part, many of them are dichromatic, which means they are red/green colorblind.
In some groups, all of the lemurs are colorblind. In other groups, most of the lemurs are colorblind and only some are capable of seeing additional colors; these are typically females who are trichromatic, rather than dichromatic.
In being trichromatic, they can see all natural colors that are made up of the red, green, and blue color spectrum, so they are capable of seeing more like we do.
According to a study that was published in Scientific Reports by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, trichromatic female lemurs may have important evolutionary advantages for their entire group, which helps them to survive more efficiently.
"Previously, researchers trying to understand why trichromacy evolved have focused on color vision in New World monkeys," said researcher Rebecca J. Lewis. "However, studies of wild monkeys were unable to find clear benefits for trichromacy. Our work on lemurs suggests that being able to distinguish red from green can be particularly important when times are tough and that trichromatic females are better able to feed themselves and their babies."
According to the research, female lemurs that were trichromats had higher body made indices and increased infant survival rates. The findings suggest that when the female lemurs, which are typically the leaders of a group, can see more color, they are more effective at hunting prey for those who depend on them, which includes their babies, and even the rest of the group.
Trichromat female lemurs were also observed eating and leading their groups to more fruit than dichromat female lemurs, suggesting that their additional color vision plays a role in their ability to spot edible fruits in the distance.
On the other hand, lemurs aren’t exactly good at finding food during the drier months between May and November, but it would appear from the study that those who had a trichromatic female in their group had at least a 5% higher body mass index during those months than those who didn’t.
The findings also conclude that infants with trichromatic mothers are 22% more likely to survive the first year than infants that only have dichromatic vision.
In what sounds like a great advantage for the species, it seems upsetting that more females don’t exhibit this quality. Only about a quarter of the 31 females that were studied actually had trichromatic qualities, which really isn’t a whole lot.