William L. Allen, Martin Stevens, and James P. Higham (June 2014)
Animal visual signals have the potential to act as an isolating barrier to prevent interbreeding of populations through a role in species recognition. Within communities of competing species, species recognition signals are predicted to undergo character displacement, becoming more visually distinctive from each other; however, this pattern has rarely been identified. Using computational face recognition algorithms to model primate face processing, we demonstrate that the face patterns of guenons (tribe: Cercopithecini) have evolved under selection to become more visually distinctive from those of other guenon species with whom they are sympatric. The relationship between the appearances of sympatric species suggests that distinguishing conspecifics from other guenon species has been a major driver of diversification in guenon face appearance. Visual signals that have undergone character displacement may have had an important role in the tribe’s radiation, keeping populations that became geographically separated reproductively isolated on secondary contact.