Small or far away? Size and distance perception in the praying mantis.

Stereo or '3D' vision is an important but costly process seen in several evolutionarily distinct lineages including primates, birds and insects. Many selective advantages could have led to the evolution of stereo vision, including range finding, camouflage breaking and estimation of object size. In this paper, we investigate the possibility that stereo vision enables praying mantises to estimate the size of prey by using a combination of disparity cues and angular size cues. We used a recently developed insect 3D cinema paradigm to present mantises with virtual prey having differing disparity and angular size cues. We predicted that if they were able to use these cues to gauge the absolute size of objects, we should see evidence for size constancy where they would strike preferentially at prey of a particular physical size, across a range of simulated distances. We found that mantises struck most often when disparity cues implied a prey distance of 2.5 cm; increasing the implied distance caused a significant reduction in the number of strikes. We, however, found no evidence for size constancy. There was a significant interaction effect of the simulated distance and angular size on the number of strikes made by the mantis but this was not in the direction predicted by size constancy. This indicates that mantises do not use their stereo vision to estimate object size. We conclude that other selective advantages, not size constancy, have driven the evolution of stereo vision in the praying mantis.This article is part of the themed issue 'Vision in our three-dimensional world'.
File Size1.5 MiB
DateDecember 12, 2015
AuthorNityananda V, Bissianna G, Tarawneh G, Read JCA