Feature Articles

A new tree cricket species in Mexico - Oecanthus rohiniae - has been named after CES faculty member Prof Rohini Balakrishnan

Oecanthus rohiniae

Picture credit: Bruno Govaerts

We are delighted that Nancy Collins, a renowned orthopterist, has named a newly discovered tree cricket species in Mexico - Oecanthus rohiniae - after the CES faculty member Prof Rohini Balakrishnan.

Division of labour in a primitive insect society

Division of Labor

In most social insect colonies, a single individual, the queen, is privileged to produce offspring while the rest of the members, the workers, spend their entire lives working for the welfare of the colony and rear the queen's offspring. In addition to such reproductive division of labour between the queens and her workers, sub-sets of workers divide non-reproductive labour among themselves, such as working at home versus going out to obtain food, for example. How the members of a colony agree on and bring about an efficient and conflict-free division of labour is of great interest.

The scent of life: Phoretic nematodes use wasp volatiles and carbon dioxide to choose functional vehicles for dispersal.

Scent of Life

"Ever thought, "what is the scent of life?" and "can nematodes differentiate between different physiological states of their host?". To get answers and insights on the vehicle-passenger relationship do read this paper.



Joint impacts of climate change and forest degradation on the survival of Himalayan birds


A Yellow-throated Fulvetta (Pseudominla cinerea), one of the study species, with a numbered aluminium ring on its leg. Bird ringing allows us to estimate how survival probabilities change over time because of climate change. This informs effective conservation action that maximises the resilience of species in the face of climate change and habitat loss.


Joint impacts of climate change and forest degradation on the survival of Himalayan birds

Multiple Sensory Modalities in Diurnal Geckos Is Associated with the Signaling Environment and Evolutionary Constraints


Being conspicuous in the environment allows males to attract mates and warn other males of their presence. Males of a species often use signal traits in different sensory modalities to achieve this. However, as elaboration of several signal-traits is demanding, trade-offs in investment in signal-traits in different modalities is expected, especially since not all traits are equally conspicuous in all environments. In Kabir et al. 2020, we show that signal traits in the chemical and visual modalities in the diurnal gecko, Cnemaspis are well associated with the local environment.

Mate-searching context of prey influences the predator–prey space race


Mate-searching context of prey influences the predator–prey space race

Predators generally move towards prey in search of a meal. Far from being easy targets, prey proactively avoid predators at multiple spatial scales, to reduce risk. But prey cannot focus all their efforts on evading predators since they have other crucial tasks to accomplish, such as foraging and reproduction. In Torsekar and Thaker (2020), we show how reproductive behaviour of prey affect their spatial games with predators.

Male crickets shift to safer mate attraction tactics when predation risk is high


The currency of success in nature is the number of offspring you leave behind, so individuals may employ alternative ways to achieve mating success under different conditions. For instance, males may attempt to mate sneakily instead of performing conspicuous courtship displays, which may attract predators. Predation risk is believed to be a factor that can drive individuals to switch between different mating tactics, but this has rarely been studied experimentally.

Moisture alone is sufficient to impart strength but not weathering resistance to termite mounds

weathering resistance to termite mounds

Termite mounds are iconic examples of earthen structures that can withstand the forces of nature such as weathering and remain intact for decades if not centuries. We have discovered that moisture alone, at levels close to the liquid limits of the construction soil, which is a residual red soil in Bangalore, is sufficient to give termite mound soils its incredible strength. However, in the absence of the manipulation of soil by termites, this soil has no weathering resistance.

New publication: The termite mound has a porous exterior and a strong core

 termite mound has a porous exterior and a strong core

The termite mound is an iconic example of earthen construction. It is a self-organised structure built by thousands of blind termite workers that build a stable soil structure with extremely high safety factors and resistance to slope failure. Using finite element modeling, tomography, porosity measurements and experimental determination of air permeability, we show that the termite mound is a bilayered structure with a solid core and a porous shell.

Vaibhav's Protanilla, a new species of ant described from Goa, India.


Vaibhav's Protanilla, Protanilla flamma a small subterranean ant measuring just 2.5mm has been described from the forests of Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, India. This ant is completely blind and uses chemical cues for navigating in their dark subterranean world. The species is named after Prof. Vaibhav Chindarkar from Goa. The word “vaibhav” means eminence – like the glow of a flame in the dark in Sanskrit and incidentally, this species is also yellowish-orange in colour and hence, the species is named "flamma".