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.</

Selected Publications: 

Borges, R.M., Bessičre, J-M, Ranganathan, Y. 2013. Diel variation in fig volatiles across syconium development: making sense of scents. Journal of Chemical Ecology DOI. 10.1007/s10886-013-0280-5.

Shenoy, M., Radhika, V., Satish, S., Borges, R.M. 2012 Composition of extrafloral nectar influences interactions between the myrmecophyte Humboldtia brunonis and its ant associates. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 38:88–99

Ghara, M., Kundanati, L. and Borges, R. M. 2011 Nature’s Swiss army knives: ovipositor structure mirrors ecology in a multitrophic fig wasp community. PLoS One 6(8):e23642.

Krishnan, A., Muralidharan, S., Sharma, L., and Borges, R. M. 2010 A hitchhiker's guide to a crowded syconium: how do fig nematodes find the right ride? Functional Ecology 24:741–749.

Ghara, M. and Borges, R. M. 2010. Comparative life-history traits in a fig wasp community: implications for community structure. Ecological Entomology 35:139–148.

Bhaskara R. M., Brijesh C M, Ahmed S. and Borges R. M. 2009 Perception of ultraviolet by crab spiders and its role in selection of hunting sites.Journal of Comparative Physiology A 195:409–417.

Ranganathan Y and Borges RM. 2009 Predatory and trophobiont-tending ants respond differently to fig and fig wasp volatiles. Animal Behaviour 77: 1539–1545.

Borges, R. M, Bessière, J-M, Hossaert-McKey M. 2008.The chemical ecology of seed dispersal in monoecious and dioecious figs.Functional Ecology 22: 484–493.

Somanathan H., Borges, R. M., Warrant, E. J., Kelber, A. 2008. Nocturnal bees learn landmark colours in starlight. Current Biology 18:R996–997.

Shenoy, M and Borges, R. M. 2008. A novel mutualism between an ant-plant and its resident pollinator. Naturwissenschaften 95:61–65.

Borges, R. M., Ahmed, S. and Prabhu, V. 2007. Male ant-mimicking salticid spiders choose between retreat silks of sympatric females: implications for pre-mating reproductive isolation. Journal of Insect Behavior 20:389–402.

Gaume, L., Zacharias, M. and Borges, R. M. 2005. Ant–plant conflicts and a novel case of castration parasitism in a myrmecophyte. Evolutionary Ecology Research 7:435–452.


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.