Humans and insects are really different, right? Yet we have a lot of common problems. The world is full of information and both insects and humans have to make sense of it all. Remember trying to listen to a single conversation in the middle of noisy party? Crickets have to do something similar to find out where their mates are calling. Imagine searching for your favourite chocolate in a supermarket with many shelves of products. Bees do something similar every day when searching for rewarding flowers in a meadow full of other flowers. How about deciding how far to throw a ball in a game of basketball? Mantises have to make similar judgements about how far their prey is before reaching out to grab it. We know something about how we manage these everyday problems. But how do insects do this? I will talk about the different solutions they have and how scientists try to get inside insect brains to figure them out. Perhaps, after all, we might sometimes have more in common with insects than we think.
Dr Vivek Nityananda is a researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University. He studies sensory biology in several animal systems including crickets, frogs and bees. Right now he’s figuring out how mantises see in 3D.