Research

Stereo vision: Mantises see 3-D differently, study says

Stereo vision: Mantises see 3-D differently, study says

Whereas prior research demonstrated that mantises could see in 3D - the only known insects to do so - the scientists' new study describes experiments comparing mantises' vision to human vision.

It means each eye sees a slightly different view of the world.

Stereo vision, also called stereopsis, enables some animals - including humans and mantises - to perceive how far away they are from objects.

In the meantime, we can all appreciate this intriguing insight into the way the praying mantis sees the world, and why it's among the coolest, most interesting creatures in the animal kingdom.

A team at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University funded by the Leverhulme Trust have been investigating whether praying mantis 3D vision works in the same way as humans'.

In order to do this, they've been putting adorable tiny 3D glasses on the insects, and then showing them 3D movies to figure out when they react.

If you want to learn about how praying mantises see the world, one thing you can do is stick teeny tiny 3D glasses on their faces, and this is what researchers at the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom have been doing for some years.

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Praying mantises don't need to be able to tell the difference between still images either, as they only hunt moving prey. The illusion is so good the mantises try to catch it.

3D vision could help mantises nab their fast-moving prey. As you might remember from the old red-and-blue 3D anaglyph images in magazines, humans can stereoscopically see still images just fine. Apparently, they care so little about the details of the image that when each eye is shown completely different images, they can still pick out which parts are changing over time.

This makes mantis 3D vision very robust.

According to their findings, mantises arrive at their 3D perception by processing visual information differently than people do, an unusual technique that allows mantises to see some objects in 3D even when humans can not. The bugs even managed to outperform humans at this test.

"This is a completely new form of 3D vision as it is based on change over time instead of static images", Dr Vivek Nityananda, behavioural ecologist at Newcastle University, said in a statement.

Not only are they the only insects that have stereopsis, they're actually the only invertebrates with this ability - and studying how their eyes work could help develop more effective robot eyes. "In mantises, it is probably created to answer the question, 'Is there prey at the right distance for me to catch?'"

The mantis is the only insect known to have stereo vision, but given its tiny brain, scientists have long suspected it must involve a simpler process.