How the praying mantises make their amazing leaps

March 6, 2015 8:31 AM

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Praying mantises are peculiar creatures, by human standards. The insect often stands in a pose that looks like it is praying, but make no mistake – it’s a formidable killer and an unforgiving lover. The unholy mantis uses its spiky front legs with great accuracy to ledge unto prey, but also to hold onto its male lover after mating to chop of his head. Ouch! A less known aspect of praying mantises is their agility. The insects make extremely calculated leaps and controlled landings, all in the blink of an aye. Now, a team from University of Cambridge and University of Bristol, UK, have found out how they manage their acrobatic feats. In short, it’s a complex interplay between the counter-rotation of three body parts to exchange momentum. This orients the insect towards its target with great precision.

Praying mantises make a complete leap in a tenth of a second. To study them, the team employed high speed video imagery of 58 juvenile mantises as the insects leapt across a distance of about one to two mantis body lengths, unto a black rod. Juveniles were preferred because these don’t have any wing...

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