The structure of species discrimination signals across a primate radiation

Sandra Winters, William L Allen, James P Higham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
78 Downloads (Pure)


Discriminating conspecifics from heterospecifics can help avoid costly interactions
between closely related sympatric species. The guenons, a recent primate radiation, exhibit high degrees of sympatry and form multi-species groups. Guenons have species-specific colorful face patterns hypothesized to function in species discrimination. Here, we use a machine learning approach to identify face regions most essential for species classification across fifteen guenon species. We validate these computational results using experiments with live guenons, showing that facial traits critical for accurate classification influence selective attention toward con- and heterospecific faces. Our results suggest variability among guenon species in reliance on singletrait-based versus holistic facial characteristics for species discrimination, with behavioral responses and computational results indicating variation from single-trait to whole-face patterns. Our study supports a role for guenon face patterns in species discrimination, and shows how complex signals can be informative about differences between species across a speciose and highly sympatric radiation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47428
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2020


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