Feature Articles

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

viraj_mthaker

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

predatingonO.henryi

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.

Protanilla

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".

New publication alert: Insights into riverscape dynamics with the hydrological, ecological and social dimensions for water sustenance

RiverScape

Riverine ecosystems encompass ecological, social and economic processes (ecosystem functions) that interconnect biotic components and provide goods and services for the society. Degradation of these vital ecosystems has been the primary cause for increasing water insecurity, raising the need for integrated solutions to freshwater management. 

Snake venom study reveals troubling shortcomings in antivenom therapy in India

Commercially available antivenoms in India can be ineffective in treating bites from certain medically important yet neglected snakes, a study conducted by the Evolutionary Venomics Lab (www.venomicslab.com), has shown. These so called the ‘neglected many’, are snakes whose bites are harmful to humans, yet remain poorly studied.

New publication: Past climate change and the diversification of geckos from Peninsular India.

geckos

Around 33.5 million years ago, during the Eocene–Oligocene period, there was an abrupt shift towards a cooler drier climate. This resulted in a corresponding shift in biological diversity globally. In Peninsular India, the study of fossil pollens suggests a shift from wet rainforest vegetation to dry and seasonal species during this period. However, the grassland and open habitats that dominate the region today expanded relatively recently as a result of the Late Miocene aridification ~ 11 million years ago.

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