Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

What has six legs and four eyes?

Hot on the heels of the drunken prairie voles comes news of an even more intriguing scientific experiment.

In a bid to investigate the evolution of depth perception, some enterprising boffins have been equipping praying mantises (mantes? mantids?) with teeny-tiny 3D glasses.

A Praying Mantis Wearing Tiny 3D Glasses for "Scientific Research"

The insects are then shown 3D films - the report doesn't say whether they are offered any popcorn - in a bid to discover how they process visual information. Sadly, for blogging purposes, the movies simply feature a black dot moving around the screen, making the plot only marginally more interesting than that of 'Jaws-3D'.

There is a valid reason behind the research...
Analysing how mantises see in three dimensions could give us clues about how 3D vision evolved and lead to novel approaches in implementing 3D recognition and depth perception in computer vision and robotics.
.... but, let's be perfectly honest, the rational explanations are always going to take second place to the utterly surreal image of a bespectacled insect. 


  1. "a black dot moving around the screen"

    Sounds like an early computer game, one of those I could actually play.

  2. Ah yes, happy days!

    Attempts to play new-fangled console games with the Urchin are doomed to failure; even if I could get the hang of the extreme multi-tasking involved, by the time I've negotiated the glasses-on, glasses-off routine necessary to look from TV screen to controller, I've invariably been eaten by aliens or shot by renegade bowmen.

  3. I read that. How on earth do they get those little lenses on such a tiny animal? The mind boggles.

    Surely it would be far more fun to equip an African elephant with 3D glasses, get it really drunk and then let it loose in a shopping centre while showing it a laser-shoot-em-up game in 3D or something.

  4. MW, according to one article, they stuck them on with beeswax, presumably on account of mantises having no ears to hold on the side-pieces.

    The article also pointed out for worried readers that the glasses were removed and the insects returned to their quarters unharmed afterwards - which is more than would have happened if the scientists had tried the prairie vole blind date experiment, what with the female mantis' habit of decapitating and eating her paramours.

    Actually, that would be an interesting experiment to try with elephants too, though I have to admit that your idea sounds highly entertaining - and would certainly improve a trip to the soul-less glass-and-steel monstrosity that disfigures my local town centre.

  5. This is one methinks I'll hurriedly pass over.