Maria Thaker

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Name: Maria Thaker
Affiliations (Departments/Programs): 
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Research Areas: 
Behavior, Ecology
Predator-prey interactions, Macrophysiology of stress coping responses, Physiological and behavioral ecology of animals, movement ecology

The research program in my lab draws upon the fields of animal behavior, physiology, ecology, and evolution, and so we almost always take an integrative approach to our questions. We are most interested in animal behavior at multiple spatial and temporal scales and the underlying physiological mechanisms that mediate those behaviors. We are not restricted to any particular taxonomic group, although thus far, most of the experimental studies on behaviour and endocrine mechanisms involve herpetofauna and the landscape-level studies of animal movement ecology focus on mammals. In our lab, we consider the premise that animals live in a dangerous and challenging world as the driving force behind the types of questions we tackle. For example, how do animals behaviourally and physiologically adjust to environmental disturbances? Do these macrophysiological patterns and phenotypic trait complexes vary across space and time? Given that most ecological studies of the physiological stress response are still predominantly based on the avian or laboratory mammalian paradigms, we emphasize field studies with reptiles. In doing so, we are able to examine variation in d phenotypic trait complexes, including stress responses, of populations where the social conditions, physical environment, and phylogenetic history generate interesting combinations of selective pressures. At larger scales, we are also interested in competition, coexistence, and decision making of animals. For example, what landscape-scale movement decisions do African elephants make to maximize resource acquisition and minimize thermoregulatory stress? How do mesocarnivores compete and coexist in human-dominated landscapes? For these kinds of questions, we use movement ecology to determine how animals solve the challenge of sharing a complex and dynamic landscape with other competitors.

Research overview video link

Selected Publications: 

Kabir S, Venkatesan R and Thaker M. 2020. Multiple sensory modalities in diurnal geckos is associated with the signalling environment and evolutionary constraints. Integrative Organismal Biology. In Press

Sheriff, M. J. Peacor, S. Hawlena, D. and Thaker M. 2020. Non-consumptive predator effects on prey  population size: a dearth of evidence. Journal of Animal Ecology. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13213.

Roth, TC and Thaker M. 2020 “Predator-Prey Interactions.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Ecology. Ed. David Gibson. New York: Oxford University Press.

Amdekar M and Thaker M. 2019 Risk of social colours in an agamid lizard: implications for the evolution of dynamic signals. Biology Letters. 20190207.

Batabyal A and Thaker M. 2019. Lizards from suburban areas learn faster to stay safe. Biology Letters. 15: 20190009.

Thaker M*, Gupte PR, Prins HHT, Slotow R, Vanak AT. 2019. Fine-scale tracking of ambient temperature and movement reveals shuttling behaviour of elephants to water. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7:4

Kabir MS, Venkatesan R and Thaker M*. 2019. Mismatch in receiver responses to multimodal signals in a diurnal gecko. Animal Behaviour. 147: 115-123.

Batabyal A and Thaker M. 2019. Social coping styles are reactive and not proactive in urban areas. General and Comparative Endocrinology. 270: 67-74.

Thaker M*, Zambre A and Bhosale H. 2018 Wind farms have cascading impacts on ecosystems across trophic levels. Nature Ecology and Evolution. 2: 1854-1858.

Batabyal A and Thaker M*. 2018. Lizards assess complex social signals by lateralizing colour but not motion detection. 2018. Journal of Experimental Biology. doi: 10.1242/jeb.173252

Amdekar M, Kakkar A and Thaker M*. 2018. Measures of health provide insight into the coping strategies of urban lizards. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 6:128. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00128.

Batabyal A and Thaker M* 2017.Signalling with physiological colors: high contrast for courtship but speed for competition. Animal Behaviour. 129: 229-236.

Batabyal A, Balakrishna S and Thaker M* 2017. A multivariate approach to understanding shifts in escape strategies of urban lizards. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology71:83-90.

Zambre A and Thaker M* 2017 Flamboyant sexual signals: multiple messages for multiple receivers. Animal Behaviour127: 197-203.

Balakrishna S, Batabyal A and Thaker M* 2016. Dining in the city: dietary shifts in Indian rock agamas across an urban-rural landscape. Journal of Herpetology 50: 423-428.


2006 Maria Thaker, D Hews, S Lima. Corticosterone effects on antipredator responses depend on male alternative reproductive tactics in tree lizards. Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology; Animal Behavior Society, USA (Best Graduate Student Poster Award).

2003-04 Maria Thaker, CR Gabor, JN Fries. Sensory cues and association preferences in the San Marcos Salamander. Animal Behavior Society Annual Meeting; Texas Herpetological Society Fall Symposium; Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, USA. (Best Student Presentation Award and Stoye Award)