Collective Behaviour - Winter Seminar Series 2022/23

Mating Ecology of a Lek-breeding Antelope – Blackbuck

Akanksha Rathore

This event is part of an event series „CASCB Winter Semester Series 2022/23“.

Lekking is a visually spectacular and extremely rare phenomenon in which males engage in intense displays on closely clustered territories and females visit these territories for the sole purpose of mating. On leks, local interactions between individuals—male-male competition and mate-choice copying in females—contribute to skewed mating success at a global (lek) level. Despite decades of research on various lekking systems, we have little mechanistic understanding of these local interactions in the context of mate-choice. We argue that the insights from collective behaviour studies can prove to be crucial in understanding mate-choice on leks as an emergent phenomenon. Our project focuses on  studying the mating interactions and emergent mating success patterns on blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) leks in the context of the social landscape in which individuals are embedded. To do this, we use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) combined with deep learning algorithms to obtain continuous, fine-scale data of every individual in the lek throughout the lekking season.

By quantifying the spatial and temporal dynamics of local interactions, we will unravel structural and social drivers of mating success in this unique and yet, under-explored mating system. In the process, we are also creating a rich dataset which will facilitate cross-talk between biologists and computer scientists and lay foundations for future collaborations. Going further, we plan to theoretical and computational frameworks to disentangle various mechanisms that contribute towards lekking dynamics. Such methods in combination with high resolution aerial imagery covering movement and interactions on the whole lek will shed light on the drivers of sexual selection in lekking systems.

Akanksha Rathore is a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Advanced Studies of Animal Behaviour and Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, Germany. She is broadly interested in the emergent behaviors and functions in animal groups. Currently, she is exploring the mate-choice dynamics in blackbuck leks using non-invasive and state-of-the-art techniques. She obtained her PhD from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Akanksha’s PhD thesis was on collective behavior of blackbuck herds, using field work, technology of drones, deep learning for image processes, and social network analyses to infer animal behavior. Prior to that, she graduated from MNIT Jaipur with a in Information Technology. Subsequently, she worked as a software developer at SAP Labs for two years.  Over the course of two years her inclination towards nature escalated to a point where it became inconceivable to work on anything else. So, she decided to break free and joined Nature Conservation Foundation in 2014.

Datum: 2022-10-31