The gaze of a social monkey is perceptible to conspecifics and predators but not prey.
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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-housed tufted capuchin monkeys (Sapajus [Cebus] apella) to quantify chromatic and achromatic contrasts between their iris, pupil, sclera and skin. We used colour vision models to quantify the degree to which capuchin eye gaze is discriminable to capuchins, their predators and their prey. We found that capuchins, regardless of their colour vision phenotype, as well as their predators, were capable of effectively discriminating capuchin gaze across ecologically relevant distances. Their prey, in contrast, were not capable of discriminating capuchin gaze, even under relatively ideal conditions. These results suggest that specific features of primate eyes can influence gaze perception, both within and across species.