Maria Thaker

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Associate Professor
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, I emphasize field studies with reptiles. In doing so, we are able to examine variation in stress responses and phenotypic trait complexes 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.

Selected Publications: 

Batabyal A and Thaker M. (2018). Lizards assess complex social signals by lateralizing colour but not motion detection. Journal of Experimental Biology. Accepted. doi: 10.1242/jeb.173252. Batabyal A, Thaker M. (2017). Signalling with physiological colours: high contrast for courtship but speed for competition. Animal Behaviour 129: 229-236. Zambre AM, Thaker M. (2017). Flamboyant sexual signals; multiple messages for multiple receivers. Animal Behaviour 127: 197-203. Batabyal A, Balakrishna S, Thaker M. (2017). A multivariate approach to understanding shifts in escape strategies of urban lizards. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71.5: 83-90. Balakrishna S, Thaker M. (2016). Dining in the city: dietary shift in the Indian rock lizard Psammophilus dorsalis (family: agamidae) across an urban-rural landscape. Journal of Herpetology. 50.3: 423-428. Lagendijk GDD, Thaker M, de Boer WF, Page BR, Prins HHT, Slotow R. (2015). Change in mesoherbivore browsing is mediated by elephant and hillslope position. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0128340. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128340. Vanak AT, Karanth KK, Hedges S, Di Minin, E, Slotow R, Thaker M, Shanker K., Rai N, Tyson MJ, Krishnaswamy J, Ramakrishanan U, Karanth KU. (2014). Potholes in the global-road map? Response to Laurance et al. Nature online commentary. Vanak AT, Fortin, D, Thaker M, Owen C, Lehmann M, Greatwood S, Slotow R. 2013. Moving to stay in place - behavioral mechanisms for coexistence of large African carnivores. Ecology. 94:2619–2631. Jorge, AA, Vanak AT, Thaker M, Begg C, Slotow R, 2013. Costs and benefits of the presence of leopards to the sport hunting industry and local communities in Niassa National Reserve, Mozambique. Conservation Biology. 27: 832-843. Students Madhura Sham Amdekar 11473 30/07/2020


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)