Most infant insects, adult insects, and many mammals including some humans cannot jump from a platform to another platform and control the spin or rotation of their bodies. Video evidence has been produced that proves baby praying mantises are one of the few insects that can control the rotation of their bodies when they jump from place to place. The proof along with video was published in the edition of the journal Current Biology by Malcolm Burrows of the University of Cambridge and Gregory Sutton of the University of Bristol.
The researchers observed the jumping behavior of baby praying mantises and determined to record it because it is such a unique behavior in insects. Baby praying mantises do not have wings so they have to leap if they want to reach areas above ground. Fifty-eight baby praying mantises were filmed jumping from a platform to a thin metal rod. The film speed was fast enough to capture the intimate details of a 10 millisecond hop.
The bugs take a moment to prepare. The body is positioned with the abdomen curled and the tip of the abdomen pointed up. When the bugs leap, three parts of their bodies, front legs, abdomen, and hind legs, rotate independently of each other to maintain balance, trajectory, and prevent spin. The 58 insects involved accomplished the feat 381 times on film.
The feat was determined to be a thought controlled process. When the target was moved twice as close to the platform the mantises jumped from, the bugs spun their bodies faster to maintain orientation. Restricting the rotation and movement of the bug’s body parts prevented the bugs from hitting the target.
The researchers propose a human application in robots. The eventual adaptation for robot use will require the knowledge of the mental processes that occur in the baby praying mantises when they make a jump. This means developing instruments small enough to read the chemical changes in the brains of the mantises when they jump.