Why A Praying Mantis Turned His Back

The other evening I stood outside on the front verandah as a sudden storm blew through town. I was so captivated by the whirly winds kicking up leaves and the buckets of heavy rain that followed (for like ten minutes) that at first I didn’t even see the little green creature—who was sat as casual as can be—right in front of me.

The Praying Mantis, resting on all legs, was cool, calm and collected as can be… until I stuck my camera about a foot away from its face. Poor little thing. This was before I moved in front of it with a lens. Note that its front leg has gone up to shield its face:

Even though its leg was in front of its face, it was still standing upright. So I moved to the front of lil’ Manti, and it leaned away from the camera like this:

You can almost hear it saying (in stiff upper-lip with irritated upperclass revulsion): “I say, Gal… be on your way! Can’t you see? I’m not dressed for the camera! Get that obnoxious thing out of my face—I have no lipstick on and I haven’t yet cleaned my teeth!”

Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but you catch my drift. Look at the body language in that photo! No more than three seconds after this photo, Mantis turned its back to me. Literally. Every time I went to capture a new shot, Mantis would reposition itself… with its back firmly in my view.

So why did Mantis turn its back on me?

I suspect the back turning could have been resultant from the fact that the Praying Mantis sees differently to most every other insect. Apparently they are the only insect to see in 3D, but instead of assimilating the images from both of their eyes into one image in their mind like humans do, they see two separate 3D images.

When human beings assimilate the images from each eye, the resultant image informs our depth perception of how far away something is and what colours it is made up of, etc. Human 3D sight works with still imagery and moving imagery. Praying Mantis 3D sight, however, only works with moving imagery. How did scientists work this out? Why, they put 3D glasses onto some Praying Mantis ‘folk’ and studied their responses, of course!

3D glasses for the win!

Interesting.

So why then did Mantis turn its back on me while I was trying to photograph it? Probably because I wasn’t prey. And I most definitely wasn’t small enough to prey upon. And the camera? Well, it was probably just a basic run-of-the-mill privacy infringement.

References

Press Association. (09/02/2018). Scientists have discovered praying mantises have unique vision by putting tiny 3D glasses on them. Retrieved from: https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/news/scientists-have-discovered-praying-mantises-have-unique-vision-by-putting-tiny-3d-glasses-on-them/