My tryst with the bats of Madurai

Chandrashekaran, M. K. (2005) My tryst with the bats of Madurai Resonance - Journal of Science Education, 10 (2). pp. 86-93. ISSN 0971-8044

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I have often been asked by people how I came to work with bats. The story may be well worth recounting, weaving into my account, for the benefit of younger readers, the minor hurdles, the adventure, excitement and thrill of working out in the open at night and inside caves with bats. My affair with the bats of Madurai had lasted two decades and five of my students wrote their PhD theses on the biology, ecology, behaviour and biological clocks of bats. Today the Department of Animal Behaviour & Physiology, Madurai Kamaraj University, has the biggest data base on the biology and behaviour of bats anywhere. In this article I wish to show that first-rate work on animal behaviour can be done in our backyards in India. J B S Haldane felt that the study of animal behaviour was the area in which we are likely to do entirely original research and R.Gadagkar has belaboured this point and, of course, set an example himself with his own researches on the paper wasp. My enterprising first student R Subbaraj had begun field work on bats a year before I had even returned to India from Germany and joined the School of Biological Sciences at the Madurai Kamaraj University in the summer of 1975. Bats were far from my mind, having until then worked for a whole decade on rather abstract concepts such as phase response curves, kinetics of phase shifts of circadian clocks, transient and limit cycles, singularities and light and energy relations of the circadian rhythms in Drosophila. I told Subbaraj that if he wanted to work for a PhD it would have to be based on laboratory work on the biological clock of bats. Subbaraj was intelligent, bright eyed, quick in grasping problems, eager to learn and was a natural talent. He was thrilled that I was opening up a new world, the world of chronobiology, for him. I was glad he was introducing me reciprocally to the exotic world of bats. I told him "The farmer does not eat what the farmer does not know. So let me get to know your bats properly".

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Source:Copyright of this article belongs to Indian Academy of Sciences.
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Deposited On:27 Dec 2010 08:18
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