What do praying mantis see?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

Praying mantises, fascinating creatures that they are, have a unique visual system that sets them apart from most other invertebrates. While they may not possess the same level of visual acuity as humans, they do have the remarkable ability to perceive depth in their surroundings. In fact, they are the only known invertebrates capable of seeing in three dimensions.

So, what exactly do praying mantises see? Well, their vision is primarily focused on detecting and capturing prey. They have a specialized visual system that helps them excel at hunting. Their compound eyes, which are large and bulging, provide them with a wide field of view. This allows them to scan their surroundings for any potential prey that comes within striking distance.

However, unlike humans who can perceive depth even when objects are stationary, praying mantises’ depth perception is dependent on movement. This means that they are most effective at determining the distance to their prey when it is in motion. When an object moves across their field of vision, they are able to gauge its distance by the slight disparities in its position relative to the background. This phenomenon is known as motion parallax.

To give you a better understanding, imagine you’re observing a praying mantis perched on a branch. As a fly buzzes by, the mantis tracks its movement with its eyes. Due to the slight time delay between the movement of the fly and the background behind it, the mantis can perceive the fly as being closer or farther away based on these disparities. This allows the mantis to precisely judge the distance and plan its attack accordingly.

It’s important to note that while praying mantises have this impressive depth perception, their vision is not as sharp as ours. They have poor visual acuity when it comes to discerning fine details. However, their ability to detect motion and perceive depth makes them highly efficient predators.

In addition to their unique depth perception, praying mantises also have an interesting feature called “stereopsis.” Stereopsis refers to the ability to perceive depth by comparing the slightly different images seen by each eye. This is a characteristic typically associated with animals that have forward-facing eyes, like humans. The fact that praying mantises possess this ability further supports their remarkable visual capabilities.

Praying mantises have a specialized visual system that allows them to see in three dimensions. While their depth perception is dependent on the movement of their prey, they are incredibly skilled at detecting and capturing targets within their striking range. Although their visual acuity may not be as sharp as ours, their ability to perceive depth and track moving objects sets them apart from other invertebrates. The praying mantis truly is a remarkable creature when it comes to its visual prowess.