Scientists build movie theatre for insects

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In a groundbreaking invention, scientists have built the first cinema for praying mantises complete with 3D glasses.

A team of scientists at Newcastle University in the UK, led by Jenny Read, built a movie theatre in a bid to confirm that these insects have binocular vision or the ability to see in 3D, reports the National Geographic. The study findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

According to the scientists, animals that have the ability to see in binocular vision (scientifically called stereopsis) are capable of noting minor differences in the location of an object, as perceived by the left and the right eye. This helps them calculate the distance at which the object is located.

“From the point of view of an insect, the advantage of binocular vision is that it gives you an accurate determination of depth almost instantaneously,” said Simon Laughlin, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge.

Laughlin, who has been studying insect vision for 45 years, said this ability to gauge the distance is vital for predators to search for food and also for the prey trying to escape the predator.

In their study, Read’s team made miniature 3D glasses similar to the ones used in the old days to watch 3D movies. Blue and green lenses were used by the researchers. They affixed these lenses to the forehead of the insects.

The insects were then suspended upside down, which is the position they use during hunting, in front of a computer screen. The team then played a series of moving discs on the screen to judge the ability of the insects to see their “prey.”

Interestingly, it was 30 years ago that the first data suggesting that praying mantis has the 3D vision was released by a Ph.D. student. However, not much work was done on the subject until the recent study conducted by Read.

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