Colour vision in primates is believed to be an adaptation for finding ripe fruit and young leaves. The contribution of the luminance distribution, which influences how humans evaluate the freshness of food, has not been explored with respect to the detection of subtle distinctions in food quality in non-human primates. We examined how chimpanzees, which are closely related to humans, perceive the freshness of foods. The findings suggest that chimpanzees were able to choose fresher cabbage based on both colour and grey-scale images. Additional tests with images of novel cabbage, spinach, and strawberries revealed that one chimpanzee could detect the freshness of other fruits and vegetables. The critical factor in determining the judgements of freshness made by the chimpanzees was the spatial layout of luminance information. These findings provide the first known evidence that chimpanzees discriminate between images representing various degrees of freshness based solely on luminance information.
Evolutionary developmental biology, Human behaviour