Renee M. Borges

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Name: Renee M. Borges
Affiliations (Departments/Programs): 
Centre for Ecological Sciences
Research Areas: 
Behaviour, Ecology, Evolution
Plant–Animal Interactions, Chemical Ecology, Visual Ecology, Sensory Biology

I am interested in mutualistic, symbiotic, and parasitic interactions between species. I am particularly interested in how chemosensory and/or visual systems interact with the physiology of the whole organism to impact on the ecology and evolution of multi-trophic systems. For example, my students and I study fungus farming by termites where we are investigating how termites prevent parasitic fungi from invading their crops of mutualistic fungi. We study ant-plants and measure the costs and benefits to the plants of harbouring ants to protect plants against herbivory. We use stable isotopes to investigate how much plants feed ants and how much nutrition ants in turn provide to the plants. We investigate the highly species-specific mutualism between figs and their pollinating fig wasps. This nursery-pollination mutualism is subject to parasitism by several species-specific non-pollinating wasps whose brood also develop within the fig syconium nursery. We investigate long- and short-range chemically-mediated host location mechanisms in this complex system in which galling and parasitoid wasps compete for egg-laying space and hosts within the fig syconium. We also study mate location mechanisms in fig wasps besides mechanisms by which nematodes inhabiting figs find appropriate vectors to be transported between fig syconia. In addition, we also investigate the role of predatory ants in influencing fig wasp survival and behaviour. We study the chemical and visual signals employed by flowers to attract pollinators at a community-level. We are interested in differences between the day and the night in plant signal–animal receiver systems. In the past we have also worked on the visual ecology of predation in flower-visiting crab spiders, chemically-mediated mate location strategies in ant-mimicking spiders, the visual ecology of nocturnal carpenter bees and the nutritional ecology of herbivorous giant squirrels.

Research overview video link

Selected Publications: 

Borges, R.M. (2018). Dark matters: challenges of nocturnal communication between plants and animals in delivery of pollination services. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 91: 33-42.

Krishnan, A., Borges, R.M. (2018). A fig tree in a concrete jungle: fine-scale population genetic structure of the cluster fig Ficus racemosa in an urban environment. Urban Ecosystems, 21:171–181.

Yadav, P., Borges, R.M. (2018) Why resource history matters: age and oviposition history affect oviposition behaviour in exploiters of a mutualism. Ecological Entomology, DoI:10.1111/een.12520.

Yadav, P., Desireddy, S., Kasinathan, S., Bessière, J.-M., Borges, R.M. (2018). History matters: oviposition resource acceptance in an exploiter of a nursery pollination mutualism. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 44:18–28.

Krishnan, A., and Borges, R.M. (2017). A fig tree in a concrete jungle: fine-scale population genetic structure of the cluster fig Ficus racemosa in an urban environment. Urban Ecosystems, 21, 171–181.

Somanathan, H., Borges, R.M., Warrant, E.J., and Kelber, A. (2017). Visual adaptations for mate detection in the male carpenter bee Xylocopa tenuiscapa. PloS One, 12, e0168452.

Venkateswaran, V., Shrivastava, A., Kumble, A.L., and Borges, R.M. (2017). Life-history strategy, resource dispersion and phylogenetic associations shape dispersal of a fig wasp community. Movement Ecology, 5, 25.

Borges, R.M. (2017). Co-niche construction between hosts and symbionts: ideas and evidence. Journal of Genetics, 96, 483–489.

Chanam, J., and Borges, R.M. (2017). Cauline domatia of the ant-plant Humboldtia brunonis (Fabaceae). Flora, 236, 58–66.

Junker, R.R., Kuppler, J., Amo, L., Blande, J.D., Borges, R.M., Dam, N.M., Dicke, M., Dötterl, S., Ehlers, B.K., and Etl, F. (2017). Covariation and phenotypic integration in chemical communication displays: biosynthetic constraints and eco-evolutionary implications. New Phytologist doi:10.1111/nph.14505.


Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences, Member, Board of Governors, National Institute of Technology (Goa), 2012. Member, Western Ghat Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), Government of India, 2010–2011. Former visiting faculty, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Currently Associate Editor, Acta Oecologica. Currently Member, Editorial Board, Journal of Biosciences. Currently Member, Editorial Board, Journal of the Indian Institute of Science. Former Member, Editorial Board, Biotropica. Founding Editorial Board Member, Conservation and Society. Former Council Member, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC). Currently Scientific Expert, International Postdoc Fellowship Programme in Plant Sciences, Zurich-Basel Plant Science Centre. Former Member, Program Advisory Committee (PAC) – Animal Sciences, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. Former Member, Research Advisory Expert Group A, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.