Some primate populations include both trichromatic and dichromatic (red–green colour blind) individuals due to allelic variation at the X-linked opsin locus. This polymorphic trichromacy is well described in day-active New World monkeys. Less is known about colour vision in Malagasy lemurs, but, unlike New World monkeys, only some day-active lemurs are polymorphic, while others are dichromatic. The evolutionary pressures underlying these differences in lemurs are unknown, but aspects of species ecology, including variation in activity pattern, are hypothesized to play a role. Limited data on X-linked opsin variation in lemurs make such hypotheses difficult to evaluate. We provide the first detailed examination of X-linked opsin variation across a lemur clade (Indriidae). We sequenced the X-linked opsin in the most strictly diurnal and largest extant lemur, Indri indri, and nine species of smaller, generally diurnal indriids (Propithecus). Although nocturnal Avahi (sister taxon to Propithecus) lacks a polymorphism, at least eight species of diurnal indriids have two or more X-linked opsin alleles. Four rainforest-living taxa—I. indri and the three largest Propithecus species—have alleles not previously documented in lemurs. Moreover, we identified at least three opsin alleles in Indri with peak spectral sensitivities similar to some New World monkeys.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3702199.
- Received January 26, 2017.
- Accepted February 15, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.