It’s easy to forget that the world is not as it seems. We humans are equipped with a particular set of senses that give us particular insight into the world—we see in visible light, for instance, not infrared, and we see in 3D, not 2D. Indeed, 3D vision is so core to our being that we forget how powerful it is, and how it’s not necessarily a given in the animal kingdom. Because get this: While many insects may see in 3D, experiments so far have only been able to show that for one insect, and that is the praying mantis.
To dive deeper into how the praying mantis’ neurobiology pieces together a 3D model of prey, researchers at Newcastle University devised what may be the greatest experiment in the history of biology: They stuck itty-bitty 3D glasses to a mantis’ face, then showed the insect movies. What they found is that the praying mantis’ 3D vision may not be all that different from that of mammals. The findings could even inspire robots that navigate the world like the mantises—save for grabbing prey with spiky arms and decapitating them. Safety first, after all.
To learn more about one of WIRED’s favorite experiments of all time, check out the video above.
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