Bugs Beyond Imagination: Journey into the Realm of Exotic Insects

How do mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision?



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20 minutes
How do mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision

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Have you ever stopped to wonder how a mantid sees the world around them? Sure, they have those big ol’ eyes, but do they really use them to perceive depth and distance as we humans do? It’s fascinating to think about how different species perceive their surroundings.

And let me tell you, the mantis might surprise you with their unique vision abilities! So come down into the wonderful world of these quirky little insects as we explore how they make sense of their environment. Get ready to be amazed!

The Vision of Mantids

Mantids are known for their exceptional visual capabilities, which enable them to perceive depth and distance accurately. This is particularly important for the praying mantis, which is an ambush predator that relies on fast and precise strikes to catch its prey.

The vision of mantises differs from that of humans in several key ways. For example, whereas humans have two eyes positioned side by side, mantises have compound eyes consisting of numerous lenses arranged in a circular pattern.

Each lens captures a small part of the visual field and sends the information to the brain through separate neurons.

Additionally, while humans rely on stereopsis (the perception of depth based on the disparity between images captured by each eye) to see in three dimensions, mantids use a different mechanism called motion parallax. This involves comparing changes in image position as they move relative to fixed objects in their environment.

Overall, studying the vision of mantids can provide valuable insights into how animals with complex visual systems perceive and interact with their surroundings. In the following sections, we’ll explore some experiments conducted to understand this fascinating topic better.

Characteristics of Mantids’ Vision

Mantids have a unique vision that enables them to detect and track prey. Their eyes are positioned on the sides of their head, giving them a wide vision field. In addition, they have stereoscopic vision, which means their eyes work together to create depth perception.

One interesting characteristic of mantid vision is their ability to perceive motion in depth. This allows them to determine the distance between themselves and a target accurately. They do this by using a process called stereopsis, which involves comparing the images from each eye to calculate distance.

Mantids also have a unique way of detecting approaching predators or prey through looming stimuli. When an object is rapidly expanding in size as it approaches the mantis’ visual field (looming), it triggers an automatic response for defensive or predatory strikes. This response is so quick that even humans cannot perceive it without sophisticated equipment.

Overall, mantises’ visual characteristics enable them to detect and track potential targets while avoiding predators efficiently. The study of these abilities has important implications for neuroscience and predator-prey interactions in nature.

Mantids’ Eyes

The vision of mantises is quite different from that of humans. Mantids have compound eyes with many small lenses, which allow them to see in a nearly 360-degree arc around their heads. Each lens feeds into its own visual neuron, meaning that mantids process visual information quite differently than we do.

One key aspect of mantis vision is their ability to detect motion in depth, or the distance an object has moved towards or away from them. This depth perception relies on stereopsis, which comes from having two eyes positioned slightly apart on the head. This allows for binocular vision and helps to create the illusion of depth by comparing the slight differences in perspective between each eye’s view.

Mantids’ eyes are also very good at detecting looming stimuli – objects approaching quickly towards them – as this can be important information for prey capture and predator avoidance. In experiments where researchers presented simulated targets moving across a screen, mantids were able to accurately strike at those targets even when they were presented against a complex background or when they were angled in different positions.

Overall, studying mantid vision can provide valuable insights into how animals process visual information in different ways and could potentially lead to new developments in neuroscience research.

Depth Perception of Mantids

Mantids have the ability to perceive depth, allowing them to strike their prey accurately. According to a study conducted by scientists at Newcastle University and published in Current Biology, mantises are equipped with a stereoscopic vision that helps them determine the distance between objects.

Stereoscopic vision enables an organism to perceive depth by utilizing the disparity in visual information received by each eye. In the case of mantids, they use this binocular disparity for both motion perception and depth discrimination.

In one experiment from the study, researchers presented stimuli on a screen to mimic different conditions of motion in depth. Mantids were shown stimuli with uncrossed or crossed disparities corresponding to object distances ranging from 0.25 cm to 6 cm away from them.

The results showed that “the degree of crossed disparity required for detection decreased as target distance increased,” indicating mantids’ ability to discern differences in distance based on changes in binocular cues.

Overall, these findings suggest that mantids are able to use stereopsis not only for detecting looming targets but also for accurate perception of objects at varying depths. This ability is crucial for predatory insects like mantids, which rely heavily on striking their prey with precision, timing, and accuracy.

Distance Perception of Mantids

Mantids are also known to have exceptional distance perception abilities. They can accurately detect an object’s size and position, even when it is far from them. This ability is essential for mantids as they need to be able to Judge the distance between themselves and their prey or predators.

Research conducted by Tom Nityananda, Ghaith Tarawneh, Vivek Nityananda, and Jenny C.A Read found that mantises use stereopsis – a phenomenon that allows humans to perceive depth thanks to the slight disparity between images seen by each eye – in order to detect distances.

Their study presented small moving targets on a screen with either crossed or uncrossed disparities in different simulated conditions such as constant velocity, motion-in-depth approaching towards the animal, and spiraling motion towards or away from the animal.

The results showed that mantises used stereopsis under all conditions except monocular stimuli.

Thus, this experiment concluded that the mutual interaction between binocular processing of parallax information and motion processing plays an important role in distance perception in praying mantises.

Experimentation to Understand Mantids’ Perception

In order to understand how mantises perceive depth and distance with their vision, researchers have conducted a number of experiments. Two key experiments in this field are described below.

Experiment 1: Testing for Depth Perception

This experiment tested whether praying mantises could detect the relative depth of stimuli on a computer screen. The stimuli consisted of crossed or uncrossed lines that moved in different directions and were displayed against a background.

The researchers found that the mantises responded differently to stimuli that were closer or farther away, indicating that they have some form of depth perception.

Experiment 2: Testing for Distance Perception

In this experiment, researchers tested whether praying mantises could perceive differences in the distance between objects based on changes in position, size, and luminance.

The researchers found that while the mantises could detect differences in object size and position (i.e., parallax), they were unable to use changes in luminance alone as a cue for distance.

Overall, these experiments suggest that praying mantises can use various visual cues such as motion-in-depth and stereopsis (the ability to see depth by comparing two slightly different images from each eye) to perceive distance and depth.

This research is important for understanding how insects see their environment and gaining insights into fundamental principles of neuroscience related to visual perception.

Transition: Now that we’ve explored some interesting findings from experimentation on mantids’ perception abilities, let’s discuss the significance of this study further.

Experiment 1: Testing for Depth Perception

In this experiment, researchers aimed to discover how praying mantises perceive depth. They used a series of tests to determine if the insects have stereoscopic vision, which is the ability to see in 3D. The experiment consisted of presenting a combination of stimuli – some moving towards and others away from the mantis – on a computer screen.

The team presented two types of visual stimuli known as dot patches with different disparities. The first type was “crossed” disparities that mimicked objects moving around or above fixation point while another patch moved lower than fixation point appeared farther away.

On the other hand, the second type was “uncrossed” where one patch moved above and another below fixation appeared farther.

Results showed that when presented with cross-disparity patterns, indicating an object moving towards them, their neural response increased significantly compared to non-looming conditions.

This means that Sphodromantis lineola can detect changes in disparity as low as 0.005° corresponding to approximately less than half degree diameter circle when moving close to its body while it’s at rest.

The researchers concluded that mantises possess stereoscopic abilities similar to those seen in humans and most primates.

The study has important implications for neuroscience research as it shows that insects are capable of sophisticated visual processing strategies necessary for survival against predatory strikes from fast-moving predators such as birds.

Interestingly praying mantises may also use such binocular cues during mating approaches and courtship selection by detecting minute differences in angular positions between males competing over females, which could be based on subtle binocular information displayed on their extended forelegs, possibly influencing female choice through sexual selection.


Researchers from Newcastle University conducted two separate experiments to understand how mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision. The first experiment focused on depth perception, while the second tested for distance perception.

For the first experiment, mantises were conditioned to strike at a visual target that was presented on a screen. The target would either be non-looming or looming towards them, with disparities of either crossed or uncrossed conditions.

Changing the focal plane of the screen during each trial allowed researchers to determine whether motion-in-depth information played a role in mantises’ perception of depth.

The second experiment involved testing for distance perception by presenting simulated prey items moving across a computer screen at various velocities and luminances. Researchers measured the position of each mantis when it attempted to strike the simulated prey item and analyzed how factors like parallax and stereopsis affected its response.

Overall, these experiments provided valuable insight into how mantids perceive depth and distance through their vision which could help inform future studies on insect neuroscience as well as predator-prey interactions in nature.


The experiments conducted on mantids to test their depth and distance perception produced interesting results. In the first experiment, the mantids were presented with stimuli that simulated motion in depth.

The researchers found that when the stimuli were presented with crossed disparity (meaning the left image was shifted to the right and vice versa), the mantids had a higher probability of striking than when they were presented with uncrossed disparity.

In the second experiment, different conditions were used to test distance perception. The researchers found that when an object was moved towards a mantis at a constant velocity, it could detect changes in its angular size or expansion rate even without stereopsis information, indicating that it was capable of using other cues such as motion parallax.

However, when tested with non-looming objects moving at random velocities, there was no significant difference between catch and miss trials.

Overall, these results suggest that mantises can perceive depth and distance through various visual cues such as stereopsis and motion parallax.

While they may not have as sophisticated a visual system as humans or other animals with binocular vision, they are still able to perceive their environment and respond accordingly and accurately.

This study has important implications for understanding how different animals perceive their surroundings and interact with their environment. By studying how mantises use visual cues to navigate the world around them, we can gain insights into the neural mechanisms involved in visual processing and potentially develop new technologies inspired by nature’s solutions to complex problems.


In conclusion, the experiments conducted to understand how mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision have provided significant insights into the visual abilities of these fascinating animals. Through these experiments, researchers found that mantises use a stereoscopic approach to depth perception, similar to humans but with some differences in the process.

Specifically, they rely on disparities between images from both eyes to create a three-dimensional image of their surroundings.

Moreover, the research revealed that mantids are capable of perceiving stimuli based on motion-in-depth cues such as looming or approaching targets. This ability helps them detect potential predators or prey and respond accordingly.

Overall, this study sheds light on how insects like praying mantids view the world around them and has important implications for neuroscience research in general. By examining the neural pathways responsible for perceiving depth and distance in mantids’ visual systems, we can gain insight into similar processes in other animals – even humans.

Future research directions could include investigating how environmental factors such as luminance and background affect mantids’ perception abilities or exploring differences between species of praying mantis. In any case, it’s clear that studying animal vision is an important field with many fascinating discoveries yet to be made.

Experiment 2: Testing for Distance Perception

After testing for depth perception in Experiment 1, the researchers turned their attention to examining mantids’ ability to perceive distance. To simulate this, they created an experiment where two screens were presented at different distances from the mantid, each showing a different pattern of expanding dots. The screens moved toward the mantis at varying speeds to create a sense of motion in depth.

The response of the praying mantises was recorded as they struck at the patterns on both screens. The results showed that mantids could perceive distance based on visual cues like motion-in-depth and parallax. They were able to accurately strike at targets that were closer or farther away by adjusting their striking position and timing accordingly.

This experiment also revealed some interesting insights into how vision works in mantises. For instance, previous research suggested that praying mantises have limited binocular vision due to small differences between the eyes.

However, this study found evidence of stereopsis – the ability to detect depth using binocular disparities – within certain regions of their visual field.

Overall, these findings indicate that insects like praying mantises are capable of sophisticated visual processing despite having relatively simple neural architectures compared to humans and other animals with more complex nervous systems.

This has implications for understanding insect behavior and developing new models in neuroscience research more broadly.


To understand mantids’ depth and distance perception, researchers at Newcastle University conducted a series of experiments with the insects. The experiments were led by Dr. Vivek Nityananda and Dr. Ghaith Tarawneh.

For testing depth perception, the team used a visual stimulus called “motion-in-depth.” This involved presenting images on a screen that simulated motion towards or away from the mantises while their head was fixed in place. The images were shown in different conditions, such as crossed disparity and uncrossed disparity to test if mantises had stereopsis (the ability to detect differences in disparities).

In order to test for distance perception, the researchers presented images of targets approaching from different distances and at varying speeds and luminance levels. They also tested how well mantids could catch prey by throwing objects at them from different positions.

The experiment consisted of 21 praying mantises from two species – Sphodromantis lineola and Hierodula majuscula – where each individual saw between 10-24 randomized trials across both experiments.

All testing was done under controlled conditions with stimuli presented either individually or within backgrounds devoid of parallax information.

Overall, these experiments provide insight into the complex vision system of animals like mantids, which is important for understanding their behavior and technological advancements in neuroscience research.


The experiments conducted to test for mantids’ depth and distance perception yielded interesting results. In the experiment testing for depth perception, it was found that mantids could perceive motion-in-depth using monocular cues alone, without requiring stereopsis (the ability to use both eyes together). This was surprising since humans typically rely heavily on stereoscopic vision for depth perception.

In the experiment testing for distance perception, researchers found that mantids could discriminate between different distances and approach speeds of looming stimuli. They were able to detect differences in position of objects within a range of 2-5 degrees of visual angle from their center fixation point. This suggests that they have good visual acuity and are capable of detecting subtle differences in approaching objects.

Overall, these findings indicate that mantises have a highly specialized visual system adapted specifically for detecting prey and escaping predators. Further research is needed to understand how exactly their neural circuits process visual information to generate such accurate estimates of depth and distance.

Transition: Now let’s move on to the next subheading where we discuss the significance of this study.


The experiments conducted by Nityananda et al. provide new insights into the stereopsis and perception capabilities of praying mantises. They clearly show that these insects use motion parallax to estimate depth and can discriminate between objects at different distances with ease.

The results suggest that mantises have a remarkable ability to detect approaching objects, even under conditions where humans would struggle. For example, the experiment on detecting looming stimuli showed that mantises were able to react to an object moving at speeds up to 59 °/s with high accuracy.

Overall, this study highlights the importance of studying how animals process visual information as it can reveal unique mechanisms and adaptations for survival. Further research in this field could lead to a better understanding of the neural basis of 3D vision in both humans and animals.

In conclusion, while there are still some limitations and gaps in our knowledge regarding mantis vision, these experiments have made significant progress towards shedding light on how these fascinating creatures perceive depth and distance using their unique visual system.

Significance of the Study

Understanding how mantids perceive depth and distance is crucial for studying their behavior and ecology and designing robots that can do the same. As mantises are known to be excellent hunters, with a strike success rate of up to 80%, scientists can use their visual system as a model to develop new algorithms for robotics.

Moreover, studying the vision of mantids opens up new avenues for understanding how insects process and perceive visual information. The research conducted at Newcastle University provides insights into the neural mechanisms that allow these animals to detect motion in depth and discriminate approaching targets from non-looming stimuli. This information could help researchers better understand how other predatory insects, such as dragonflies and spiders, perceive objects in their environment.

Additionally, this study challenges previous assumptions about insect stereopsis as it shows that instead of focusing on differences in luminance or color between two images, mantises rely on changes in spatial frequency patterns to obtain depth information. This discovery suggests multiple mechanisms in animal vision systems may exist to achieve stereopsis.

Overall, this study has significant implications for neuroscience and engineering fields looking to develop autonomous systems based on biological models of perception. Further studies building upon these findings could lead to breakthroughs in our understanding of insect behavior and ecological interactions with their environment.

Limitations of the Study

While the study provided valuable insights into how mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision, there are some limitations to consider. One limitation is that the experiments were conducted in controlled laboratory conditions, which may not accurately represent how mantises perceive depth and distance in their natural environments.

Another limitation is that the experiments focused solely on one species of mantis – Sphodromantis lineola. It’s possible that other species of mantis may have different visual capabilities or may rely on different cues for depth perception.

Additionally, while the researchers used a variety of stimuli to test for both depth and distance perception, it’s possible that there are other factors at play that weren’t accounted for in the experiments. For example, movement and motion-in-depth cues were simulated using 2D images presented on a screen, which may not fully capture how a real-world object would appear as it moves towards or away from a mantis.

Overall, while this study provides important contributions to our understanding of how mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision, further research is needed to understand the complexities of their visual system fully.

Future Directions

While the experiments conducted so far have shed light on how mantids perceive depth and distance with their vision, there is still much to uncover. One potential avenue for future research could be investigating the role of background information in mantids’ perception. The use of visual cues such as texture, color, and contrast could provide insight into how mantids navigate their environment.

Additionally, there is room to explore how other factors may affect mantids’ perception of depth and distance. For example, it would be interesting to examine whether the speed or direction of a moving stimulus influences their responses. It’s also possible that different species or even individual mantises may have variations in their visual abilities.

Lastly, integrating neuroscientific approaches with behavioral experiments could provide a more comprehensive understanding of how mantids process visual information. Studying the neural activity in response to stimuli could reveal which specific neurons are involved in depth and distance perception.

Overall, continued investigation into these areas will advance our understanding of this fascinating insect and contribute to broader discussions about vision and neuroscience research.

Final Thoughts

The study of mantids’ vision holds significant importance in both neuroscience and ecology. Understanding how these insects perceive depth and distance can help us gain insights into their behavior, such as their hunting strategies.

Through experimentation, we have learned that mantids use stereopsis to perceive depth and motion parallax to perceive distance. They are also able to detect looming stimuli, which helps them avoid predators and catch prey more efficiently.

While the limitations of the study must be acknowledged – such as the fact that experiments were carried out on only one species of praying mantis – the results provide important information for future research. It would be interesting to see if other predatory insects use similar perception methods or if there are differences depending on factors like habitat or size.

Overall, this study highlights the complexity of seemingly simple organisms like mantises and reminds us of how much remains to discover about our natural world.

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