RaghAvendra Gadagkar

Raghavendra Gadagkar


DST Year of Science Chair Professor, Centre for Ecological SciencesIndian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Founder President, Indian Society of Evolutionary Biologists
Email : ragh[at]iisc.ac.in
Websites: http://ces.iisc.ac.in/hpg/ragh

"The advantages of living in groups"

Animals display great diversity in their intra-specific interactions, ranging all the way from being solitary all their lives and interacting with a conspecific only for mating, to obligate social life where daily life is impossible without conspecifics. Natural selection is expected to favour whichever strategy provides the maximum life-time reproductive success (LRS). However, the assessment of LRS becomes complicated because the fate of individuals can get inseparably tied with the success of its group. Many theories have been proposed in an attempt to circumvent this problem. The most controversial of these is ‘group selection’.

The most successful and widely accepted theory during the past 50 years has been the idea of ‘inclusive fitness’. This too has now been called into question and our understanding of the advantages of group living is in a bit of a flux. In this brief talk, I will highlight some of the advantages and disadvantages of the prevailing inclusive fitness approach. I will argue that a near-resolution of the problem may be possible if we are open to accepting and combining different ideas already in the literature. In doing so I will draw upon our research on the Indian paper wasp Ropalidia marginata.

Raghavendra Gadagkar obtained B.Sc (Hons) and M.Sc. in Zoology from Bangalore University and Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. During the past 35 years he has established an active school of research in the area of Animal Behavior, Ecology and Evolution. The origin and evolution of cooperation in animals, especially in social insects, such as ants, bees and wasps, is a major goal of his research. By identifying and utilizing crucial elements in India’s biodiversity, he has added a special Indian flavor to his research.

Gadagkar is now Year of Science Chair Professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Honorary Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, and Non-Resident Permanent Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) in Berlin. He has published over 300 research papers and articles and two books. His book entitled Survival Strategies (Harvard University Press, USA, 1997 and Universities Press, Hyderabad, 1998, since translated into Chinese and Korean), explains recent advances in behavioural ecology and sociobiology to a general audience. His more technical book entitled The Social Biology of Ropalidia (Harvard University Press, USA, 2001) summarizes over twenty years of his research aimed at understanding the evolution of eusociality. His research work has been recognized by a number of awards including the Shanthi Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, B.M.Birla Science Prize, Homi Bhabha Fellowship, B.P. Pal National Environment Fellowship on Biodiversity, the Third World Academy of Sciences award in Biology and H.K.Firodia award, DSc (hc) of the University of Burdwan, West Bengal and Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He is an elected fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (Secretary, 1995-2000), the Indian National Science Academy (President, 2014-2016), the National Academy of Sciences, India, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, the German National Science Academy Leopoldina, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Founder President, Indian Society of Evolutionary Biologists (ISEB).

He is or has been on the editorial boards of several national and international scientific journals, including the board of reviewing editors of Science. He has delivered over 500 invited lectures in universities, institutes, schools and colleges in India and abroad. He was invited to USA as the Michener Lecturer and by the Royal Society to deliver a public lecture in London, on the occasion of India day and has delivered plenary lectures at a number of national and international conferences. He is, or has been, a member of a number of national and international professional scientific bodies and government and non-government advisory committees including the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet, Government of India.

As the founder chair of the Centre for Contemporary Studies, Gadagkar has initiated a new experiment that endeavors to engage some of the best practitioners of different disciplines in the human sciences, such as philosophy, sociology, economics, law, literature, poetry, art, music, cinema etc. and aims to forge meaningful interaction between the natural and human sciences with special focus on understanding the diverse research methodologies of different disciplines and create opportunities to rethink the foundations of our own disciplines. (Last modified in August 2018).