Insects can see in 3D, according to Uni

The mantises were fitted with specially made 3D glasses

Sophie Norris
22nd February 2016

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports and researched by a Newcastle University team has found that praying mantises use 3D vision to aid hunting.

The team included Vivek Nityananda, Ghaith Tarawneh, Ronny Rosner, Judith Nicolas, Stuart Crichton and Jenny Read.

The invertebrates had to wear specially made 3D glasses, modelled on an original design for the glasses in humans, however instead of being red and blue, the glasses have blue and green lenses.

The 3D glasses were developed especially for insects so that researchers can show them different images, presenting other opportunities for research in the field.

The leader of the team, Jenny Read, Professor of Vision Science at Newcastle University, said: “Despite their minute brains, mantises are sophisticated visual hunters which can capture prey with terrifying efficiency. We can learn a lot by studying how they perceive the world.

“Better understanding of their simpler processing systems helps us understand how 3D vision evolved, and could lead to possible new algorithms for 3D depth perception in computers.”

The experiment involved fitting the glasses to the mantises with a beeswax substance.

Bugs appeared on a screen in front of the mantises. When they did not have the glasses fitted, they did not try to hunt the bugs, however when they were fitted with the glasses and had 3D vision, they tried to catch them.

Research Associate, Dr Vivek Nityananda added: “When this system failed we looked at the old-style 3D glasses with red and blue lenses. Since red light is poorly visible to mantises, we used green and blue glasses and an LED monitor with unusually narrow output in the green and blue wavelength.

“We definitively demonstrated 3D vision or stereopsis in mantises and also showed that this technique can be effectively used to deliver virtual 3D stimuli to insects.”

It is hoped that further research will help us to understand how human sight developed and in the creation of new computer and robotic technology.

3D vision is one of the most widely used contemporary technologies and research using this method has enabled scientists to understand more about how the human eye works as well as study animal behaviour.

The report states: “A large body of work has investigated and shed light on the mechanisms by which humans and other primates achieve stereopsis. It has also been demonstrated in other vertebrate species including horses, falcons, owls and toads. The overwhelming majority of work investigating mechanisms of stereopsis has, however, thus far been restricted to primates, cats and owls.

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