Side-to-side head movements to obtain motion depth cues: A short review of research on the praying mantis

Behav Processes. 1998 Apr;43(1):71-7. doi: 10.1016/s0376-6357(98)00007-2.

Abstract

In the case of a visual field comprised of stationary objects, retinal image motion and motion parallax initiated by the observer can be used to determine the absolute and relative distance of objects. The principle is simple: when the observer moves, the retinal images of objects close to the eye are displaced more quickly-and through a larger angle-than are the retinal images of more distant objects. It is remarkable that not only in humans, but throughout the animal kingdom, from primates down to insects, retinal image motion and motion parallax generated with the aid of head movements is used as a means of distance estimation. In the case of praying mantids, translatory side-to-side movements of the head in a horizontal plane are performed to determine the jump distance to stationary objects. The relevant parameter for determining the distance to the object is the speed of retinal image motion. The motion of the head must, however, also be monitored. This requires a multisensory regulatory circuit. Motion parallax information seems to be mediated by a movement-detecting neuronal mechanism which is sensitive to the speed of horizontal image motion, irrespective of its spatial structure or direction.