Fig. S3. Quantal catches to the luminance receptor(s) of each color vision phenotype. Error bars represent +/-1 SD.
Eye gaze is an important source of information for animals, implicated in communication, cooperation, hunting and antipredator behaviour. Gaze perception and its cognitive underpinnings are much studied in primates, but the specific features that are used to estimate gaze can be difficult to isolate behaviourally. We photographed 13 laboratory-hous...
... However, more recent research points to a broad variety of social and ecological factors that in uence the diversity in external eye appearance in primates; for example, such diversity may be driven by the behavioral ecology of speci c lineages, such as the spectral quality and quantity of light from the sun in the species' range (Perea-García et al., 2022) 7 . Furthermore, functional studies 8 as well as simulations 9,10 show that the eye-gaze of other primate species previously considered to have cryptic eye gaze is actually conspicuous, supporting the proposal by Perea-García et al (2019) 11 based on comparative morphological evidence. This is especially interesting in the case of the chimpanzee, which are characterized by deeply pigmented conjunctiva, but whose typically bright amber irises create a stark contrast between these two tissues. ...
Homogeneously depigmented sclerae have long been proposed to be uniquely human - an adaptation to enable cooperative behaviour by facilitating interpersonal coordination through gaze following. However, recent evidence has shown that deeply pigmented sclerae also afford gaze following if surrounding a bright iris. Furthermore, while current scleral depigmentation is clearly adaptive in modern humans, it is less clear how the evolutionarily intermediate stages of scleral pigmentation may have been adaptive. In sum, it is unclear why scleral depigmentation became the norm in humans, while not so in sister species like chimpanzees, or why some extant species (presumably as our ancestors did at some point) display intermediate degrees of pigmentation. We created realistic facial images of 20 individually distinct hominins with diverse facial morphologies, each face in the (i) humanlike bright sclera and (ii) generalised apelike dark sclera version. Participants in two online studies rated the bright-sclera hominins as younger, healthier, more attractive and trustworthy, but less aggressive than the dark-sclera hominins. Our results support the idea that the perceptual affordances of more depigmented sclerae increased perceived traits that fostered trust, increasing fitness for those individuals and resulting in depigmentation as a fixed trait in extant humans.
... Because any hypothesized relationship between ape eye morphology and social cognition depends on a conspecific observer's ability to perceive and act on any cues the eye morphology produces, analyses that account for the unique perception of the observer species are a necessary part of understanding any hypothetical selection pressures for primate gaze colouration. For example, species-specific visual modeling reveals that the gaze colouration of a New World monkey species, Sapajus apella, is uniquely suited for signaling to conspecifics and prospective predators, but not to prey 24 . ...
Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) sclera appear much darker than the white sclera of human eyes, to such a degree that the direction of chimpanzee gaze may be concealed from conspecifics. Recent debate surrounding this topic has produced mixed results, with some evidence suggesting that (1) primate gaze is indeed concealed from their conspecifics, and (2) gaze colouration is among the suite of traits that distinguish uniquely social and cooperative humans from other primates (the cooperative eye hypothesis). Using a visual modelling approach that properly accounts for specific-specific vision, we reexamined this topic to estimate the extent to which chimpanzee eye coloration is discriminable. We photographed the faces of captive chimpanzees and quantified the discriminability of their pupil, iris, sclera, and surrounding skin. We considered biases of cameras, lighting conditions, and commercial photography software along with primate visual acuity, colour sensitivity, and discrimination ability. Our visual modeling of chimpanzee eye coloration suggests that chimpanzee gaze is visible to conspecifics at a range of distances (within approximately 10 m) appropriate for many species-typical behaviours. We also found that chimpanzee gaze is discriminable to the visual system of primates that chimpanzees prey upon, Colobus monkeys. Chimpanzee sclera colour does not effectively conceal gaze, and we discuss this result with regard to the cooperative eye hypothesis, the evolution of primate eye colouration, and methodological best practices for future primate visual ecology research.
Eyes convey important information about the external and internal worlds of animals. Individuals can follow the gaze of others to learn about the location of salient objects as well as assess eye qualities to evaluate the health, age or other internal states of conspecifics. Because of the increasing prevalence of artificial lighting at night (ALAN), urbanized individuals can potentially garner information from conspecific eyes under both daylight and ALAN. We tested this possibility using a visual modeling approach in which we estimated the maximum distance at which individuals could detect conspecific eyes under daylight and high levels of ALAN. We also estimated the minimum light level at which individuals could detect conspecific eyes. Great-tailed grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) were used as our study species because they are highly social and are unusual among birds in that they regularly gather at nocturnal roosts in areas with high levels of ALAN. This visual modelling approach revealed that grackles can detect conspecific eyes under both daylight and ALAN, regardless of iris coloration. The grackles could detect conspecific eyes at farther distances in daylight compared to ALAN. Our results highlight the potential importance of lighting conditions in shaping social interactions.
The cooperative eye hypothesis posits that human eye morphology evolved to facilitate cooperation. Although it is known that young children prefer stimuli with eyes that contain white sclera, it is unknown whether white sclera influences children’s perception of a partner’s cooperativeness specifically. In the current studies, we used an online methodology to present 5-year-old children with moving three-dimensional face models in which facial morphology was manipulated. Children found “alien” faces with human eyes more cooperative than faces with dark sclera (Study 2) but not faces with enlarged irises (Study 1). For more human-like faces (Study 3), children found human eyes more cooperative than either enlarged irises or dark sclera and found faces with enlarged irises cuter (but not more cooperative) than eyes with dark sclera. Together, these results provide strong support for the cooperative eye hypothesis.