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Centre for Ecological Sciences

Genomes of Asian and African elephants compared

A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune have sequenced the Asian elephant genome, and compared its salient features to its close relative, the African elephant. The set of smell receptors seems to be a major differentiating factor between the two species.

Granting Citizenship to the Striped Grass Skink Eutropis dissimilis

It may surprise you to know that there are lizards which look more like snakes. Called 'skinks', these lizards are small-legged and resemble snakes in both structure and locomotion. They lack the pronounced neck and long legs that are characteristic of “true lizards”, like the house lizards we share our homes with.

Domestic cattle to take on an elephantine task?

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) plays a vital role in the ecology of forests it occupies. However, this megaherbivore faces several threats today from habitat fragmentation and climate change. Will there be suitable replacements to perform the roles that elephants play in the seed dispersal of tree species, considering that elephant numbers are going down? How efficient will domestic cattle and buffaloes be in place of the elephant?

Do elephants move around seeds?

The Asian elephant is a charismatic animal. Besides its impressive size and the tusks on its males, the elephant also performs more routine tasks in the ecology of the forest, ecologists feel. For example, it could help with pollination of some flowers,or it could be eating fruits and helping with seed dispersal. Because of their large size and the huge areas they cover, they can potentially disperse seeds far and wide.

Duets in the dusk: song and dance in a chirping insect

As the sun retires for the day and dusk creeps in, those of us fortunate enough to be surrounded by some greenery have an earful of nightly sounds to enjoy. Apart from the unmistakable croaking of frogs signalling the arrival of the monsoon, some insects strike up their own chorus. Katydids or bush crickets are the green leaf-like insects that may have visited you when you're strolling in the garden, or reading under a light at home. When a male katydid is ready to mate, it starts chirping, usually at dusk. These calls (songs) attract females. They move toward the males in response, in a process called phonotaxis.

You are what you eat: how diet affects an insect’s chemical ‘covering’

Did you know that insects can taste through touch? It’s like they have tongues on their antennae and feet! All insects have a ‘coat’ of chemicals that help them identify mates, camouflage themselves and in general communicate with each other. This is called ‘contact chemoreception’ or in simpler terms ‘taste through touch’. What is even more intriguing is that these chemical coats depend on and often vary with the insect’s diet.

You are what you eat: how diet affects an insect’s chemical ‘covering’

Did you know that insects can taste through touch? It’s like they have tongues on their antennae and feet! All insects have a ‘coat’ of chemicals that help them identify mates, camouflage themselves and in general communicate with each other. This is called ‘contact chemoreception’ or in simpler terms ‘taste through touch’. What is even more intriguing is that these chemical coats depend on and often vary with the insect’s diet.

A world within a world: The complex insect community within fig fruits

The luscious fig is a fruit eaten all over the world – fresh, dried, in jams, ice creams and a score of other dishes. But there's more to a fig fruit than what meets the eye. The fig fruit, called a 'syconium' is actually a round structure with a single opening that at first bears fig flowers inside it, and then develops into a fruit after pollination. Within the fruit live as many as 7-8 types of insects called 'fig wasps', which have very different lives.

“Flying back home” paper wasps amaze researchers

Paper wasps can navigate their way home over distances of up to 1500 m (1.5 km), a research team at IISc has shown.
For many decades, a research group led by Prof Raghavendra Gadagkar at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has been looking at behaviour, ecology and evolution of social insects like ants, bees and wasps. “Our studies require us to look at how animals behave and also understand how they interact with their environment”, says Souvik Mandal, a researcher from the research group.
The current study examines how this wasp uses its environment, and measured the maximum distance it is likely to fly before it heads back home.

Lab Story: Tracking evolution in animals and insects: The Evolutionary Ecology Group

When evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzansky said, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” he couldn’t have been more right. Evolution, the study of how traits are conserved or emerge over time, answers a lot of “whys” in biology: Why does an animal use a particular strategy to woo a mate? Why does a female decide to lay her eggs at a particular place and time? Why does competition arise within species? The Evolutionary Ecology Research Group at the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, works on answering many such questions.

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