Wild Things

The Airborne Acrobatics of Praying Mantises

Before they grow wings, young praying mantises use a different trick to move through the air, and they do so with amazing precision. Professor Malcom Burrows and his colleague Dr. Gregory Sutton shot high-speed film of 58 mantises performing 381 jumps and found the insects could execute a series of intricate, calculated movements that helped them complete jumps with incredible accuracy and speed.

Those steps, shown in the video above, have led the researchers to their next big question: Do mantises predict the movements necessary for a successful landing prior to takeoff, or are they able to make lightning-fast corrections while airborne?

“We now have a good understanding of the physics and biomechanics of the precise aerial acrobatics,” said Sutton. “But because the movements are so quick, we need to understand the role the brain is playing in their control once the movements are underway.”