Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder

A case study in the rhesus macaque

James Higham, Lauren J N Brent, Constance Dubuc, Amanda K. Accamando, Antje Engelhardt, Melissa S. Gerald, Michael Heistermann, Martin Stevens

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)739-746
    Number of pages8
    JournalBehavioral Ecology
    Volume21
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 2010

    Fingerprint

    Macaca mulatta
    case studies
    cameras
    color
    sensors (equipment)
    sensor
    paternity
    photography
    sexual selection
    receptors
    natural selection
    digital images
    photograph
    physiology
    spectrometry
    photographs
    spectroscopy
    animal
    modeling
    animals

    Keywords

    • color signaling
    • communication
    • receiver perception
    • visual discrimination threshold modeling

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

    Cite this

    Higham, J., Brent, L. J. N., Dubuc, C., Accamando, A. K., Engelhardt, A., Gerald, M. S., ... Stevens, M. (2010). Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: A case study in the rhesus macaque. Behavioral Ecology, 21(4), 739-746. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arq047

    Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder : A case study in the rhesus macaque. / Higham, James; Brent, Lauren J N; Dubuc, Constance; Accamando, Amanda K.; Engelhardt, Antje; Gerald, Melissa S.; Heistermann, Michael; Stevens, Martin.

    In: Behavioral Ecology, Vol. 21, No. 4, 04.2010, p. 739-746.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Higham, J, Brent, LJN, Dubuc, C, Accamando, AK, Engelhardt, A, Gerald, MS, Heistermann, M & Stevens, M 2010, 'Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: A case study in the rhesus macaque', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 739-746. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arq047
    Higham J, Brent LJN, Dubuc C, Accamando AK, Engelhardt A, Gerald MS et al. Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: A case study in the rhesus macaque. Behavioral Ecology. 2010 Apr;21(4):739-746. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arq047
    Higham, James ; Brent, Lauren J N ; Dubuc, Constance ; Accamando, Amanda K. ; Engelhardt, Antje ; Gerald, Melissa S. ; Heistermann, Michael ; Stevens, Martin. / Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder : A case study in the rhesus macaque. In: Behavioral Ecology. 2010 ; Vol. 21, No. 4. pp. 739-746.
    @article{dde47a5adb05411cb11da7b4ded95859,
    title = "Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: A case study in the rhesus macaque",
    abstract = "Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.",
    keywords = "color signaling, communication, receiver perception, visual discrimination threshold modeling",
    author = "James Higham and Brent, {Lauren J N} and Constance Dubuc and Accamando, {Amanda K.} and Antje Engelhardt and Gerald, {Melissa S.} and Michael Heistermann and Martin Stevens",
    year = "2010",
    month = "4",
    doi = "10.1093/beheco/arq047",
    language = "English (US)",
    volume = "21",
    pages = "739--746",
    journal = "Behavioral Ecology",
    issn = "1045-2249",
    publisher = "Oxford University Press",
    number = "4",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder

    T2 - A case study in the rhesus macaque

    AU - Higham, James

    AU - Brent, Lauren J N

    AU - Dubuc, Constance

    AU - Accamando, Amanda K.

    AU - Engelhardt, Antje

    AU - Gerald, Melissa S.

    AU - Heistermann, Michael

    AU - Stevens, Martin

    PY - 2010/4

    Y1 - 2010/4

    N2 - Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.

    AB - Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.

    KW - color signaling

    KW - communication

    KW - receiver perception

    KW - visual discrimination threshold modeling

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=77954354771&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=77954354771&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1093/beheco/arq047

    DO - 10.1093/beheco/arq047

    M3 - Article

    VL - 21

    SP - 739

    EP - 746

    JO - Behavioral Ecology

    JF - Behavioral Ecology

    SN - 1045-2249

    IS - 4

    ER -