The One-Eared Mantis
Many centuries ago, Greek legends described the fearsome Cyclopes, one-eyed giants who lived in a faraway land. These deformed monsters existed only in men’s fertile imagination.
However, scientists have recently stumbled upon a host of one-eared creatures—right under their noses. They are the praying mantises.
Why has the mantis’ secret only now come to light? Scientists long assumed that the mantis must be deaf, since it doesn’t make any sound or respond to sound like other insects. To make matters more confusing, the mantis’ ear is not on its head, where you would expect it to be. The magazine Natural History explains that the ear is “a deep slit, about one millimeter long,” on the underside of the mantis’ body.
Isn’t it a bit inconvenient having only one ear in such an unlikely place? Well, we humans use our two ears to identify where a sound is coming from. The mantis can apparently get by without that ability. Its hearing is designed to warn it of life-threatening situations. The mantis possesses a built-in sonar detector.
The mantis’ ear tunes in to ultrasonic sounds, especially the sounds that bats make while hunting for insects like the mantis. Natural History reports that scientists have observed the mantis taking rapid evasive action when a bat approaches, thanks to the mantis’ acute ultrasonic hearing. But how does the mantis escape a bat, which can fly three or four times faster than its prey?
When the mantis picks up the ultrasonic danger signal—usually when the bat is within a radius of about ten yards [10 m]—in a fraction of a second, the mantis goes into a steep power dive. Apparently, it does this by deliberately stalling, a defensive maneuver similar to that employed by modern fighter pilots. In fact, Natural History commented that the mantis “offers an advanced lesson in aerial combat strategies.”
How did the mantis learn ‘advanced aerial combat strategy’? Who designed its ultrasonic hearing equipment? Surely, the logical reply is that provided by the patriarch Job: “Who among all these does not well know that the hand of Jehovah itself has done this?”—Job 12:9.