Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have outfitted praying mantises with the world's smallest pair of 3D glasses, as part of an experiment into three dimensional vision.
Researchers, led by Dr Jenny Read from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, have created the tiny 3D glasses that are just five millimetres wide.
A key component of the research entails presenting virtual 3D stimuli, such as moving targets within the visual field of the mantis.
As a first approach, the researchers are attaching the 3D glasses with beeswax to the mantis, and placing it in front of computer-generated images, presented on computer monitors.
After the experiments, the scientists remove the beeswax and the glasses, and place the mantises back in the insect room where they are fed and maintained.
The experiment aims to determine if mantis can see the moving object standing out in depth in a similar way to humans and monkeys.
Analysing how mantises see in three dimensions could give clues about how 3D vision evolved and lead to novel approaches in implementing 3D recognition and depth perception in computer vision and robotics, researchers said.
"If we find that the way mantises process 3D vision is very different to the way humans do it, then that could open up all kinds of possibilities to create much simpler algorithms for programming 3D vision into robots," said Dr Vivek Nityananda, from Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience, and one of the investigators involved in the study.
Praying mantis is the only invertebrate known to see in three dimensions, instead of 2D.
It is possible that 3D vision in mantises is closer to that of vertebrates, where disparities between the positions of an object's image in the two eyes can be detected and used to reveal the object's position, even when the object is camouflaged and thus invisible in either eye individually.
This would mean that mantises have independently evolved similar 3D processing to vertebrates - a fascinating insight into the evolution of 3D vision, researchers said.