Researchers from Newcastle University have found that praying mantises have a previously unknown type of 3D vision, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology.
3D vision — also known as stereo vision — is important because it helps human add distance to the things we see. Each of our eyes has a slightly different view of the world, and our brain uses those differences to merge them into a single image. While a wide range of animals have this ability — including monkeys, horses, cats, and owls — praying mantises are the only insect known to have it.
Researchers in the study explored that by outfitting the bugs with small 3D glasses to see how they viewed the world. The team showed the insects a 3D movie of prey, as well as a series of complex dot-patterns that are typically used to explore human 3D vision. That then allowed them to compare human and mantis vision for the first time.
During the prey movie, the insects would often swipe out and try to catch the bugs. However, they would only do this on moving images, suggesting their vision does not work on still pictures.
After some research, the team discovered that the insects do not look at the details of a picture. Rather, they simply focus on places where it is changing. That trait makes mantis 3D vision unlike any other animal vision on Earth.
This research is important, not just from an academic standpoint, but a practical one as well. That is because this information could one day help researchers create simple visual processing for robots, which would then lead to more efficient machines.