The ways in which religious mantises are able to three-dimensionally perceive the world through their visual system have been partly clarified thanks to research by the Institute of Neuroscience of the University of Newcastle.
These insects, in fact, use a characteristic, known as stereopsis or stereoscopic vision, to perceive the world in three dimensions and therefore be more efficient especially for hunting prey. The religious mantises obtain it through two retinas that calculate the distances and activate the front legs when the prey is near.
This system is in turn activated by special neurons that the researchers identified in the brain of the mantis and which are divided into four classes. As Ronny Rosner, the scientist who recorded the activity of individual neurons, explains, “Despite their small size, mantis brains contain a surprising number of neurons that seem specialized for three-dimensional vision, which suggests that perception of depth mantis is more complex than we thought.”
The research represents the first case of identification of specific neurons for the perception of 3D space in the brain of a vertebrate. The discovery of these neurons relegated to the particular three-dimensional vision of mantids could be of help for the development of algorithms connected to artificial vision.