The Amazingly Precise Jumping Ability of the Praying Mantis

To watch a young, wingless praying mantis jump is a truly remarkable thing. The jump from take-off to landing lasts less than a tenth of second--literally faster than the blink of a human eye. During a jump, the insect's body rotates in mid-air at a rate of about 2.5 times per second (see video of praying mantis jump at link provided at end of this article). And yet, according to researchers who report their observations in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on March 5, 2015, the mantises' jumps are precise. When mantises jump, they land on target every time. The Current Biology article is entitled “Mantises Exchange Angular Momentum Between Three Rotating Body Parts to Jump Precisely to Targets." "This is akin to asking an ice skater who is rotating at the same speed as these mantises to stop suddenly and accurately to face a specific direction," says Dr. Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge. Dr. Burrows, along with Dr. Gregory Sutton of the University of Bristol, came to study praying mantises quite by accident. After buying a few mantises at an amateur entomology show, the researchers brought them back to the lab. Those insects started breeding, and the researchers became intrigued by the mantises' jumping behavior. "We could not scare them into jumping or get them to jump away from a threatening stimulus," Dr. Sutton says. "So instead we offered them a target to jump towards and found that they would do this consistently and accurately." The question then was: How did they do it? To find out, the researchers watched high-speed video after video--381 in all--of 58 young mantises jumping to a thin black rod. What the researchers saw was this: in preparation for a jump, first the insects sway their heads sideways, scanning for their targets.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story