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The contrast sensitivity function of the praying mantis Sphodromantis lineola

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Vivek Nityananda, Dr Ghaith Tarawneh, Dr Lisa Jones, Natalie Busby, Professor Jenny ReadORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The detection of visual motion and its direction is a fundamental task faced by several visual systems. The motion detection system of insects has been widely studied with the majority of studies focussing on flies and bees. Here we characterize the contrast sensitivity of motion detection in the praying mantis Sphodromantis lineola, an ambush predator that stays stationary for long periods of time while preying on fast-moving prey. In this, its visual behaviour differs from previously studied insects and we might therefore expect its motion detection system to differ from theirs. To investigate the sensitivity of the mantis we analyzed its optomotor response in response to drifting gratings with different contrasts and spatio-temporal frequencies. We find that the contrast sensitivity of the mantis depends on the spatial and temporal frequencies present in the stimulus and is separably tuned to spatial and temporal frequency rather than specifically to object velocity. Our results also suggest that mantises are sensitive to a broad range of velocities, in which they differ from bees and are more similar to hoverflies. We discuss our results in relation to the contrast sensitivities of other insects and the visual ecology of the mantis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nityananda V, Tarawneh G, Jones L, Busby N, Herbert W, Davies R, Read JCA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Comparative Physiology A

Year: 2015

Volume: 201

Issue: 8

Pages: 741-750

Print publication date: 01/08/2015

Online publication date: 18/04/2015

Acceptance date: 30/03/2015

Date deposited: 18/09/2015

ISSN (print): 0340-7594

ISSN (electronic): 1432-1351

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s00359-015-1008-5


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Funder referenceFunder name
RL-2012-019Leverhulme Trust