Dr. Revathe Thillaikumar


Main Focus

I am a behavioural ecologist with an overarching research interest in understanding the development and evolution of sociality. In humans and other primates, highly social individuals have a higher reproductive success and survival, better health, and an increased ability to manage stressors than less social individuals. Individual characteristics and various socioecological factors seem to shape individual sociality. However, little is known about how sociality develops in an individual’s lifetime. Most of the research on sociality comes out of the Cercopithecidae family, while equally interesting study systems with complex social organisation and structure remain largely understudied. I am, therefore, interested in understanding when and how sociality develops, the factors that influence individual sociality, how individuals pass down their social connections across generations, and finally the fitness consequences of sociality and social structure for individuals in a population.

During my ten years of research, I have been investigating female social structure, calf development, and allomaternal care in Asian elephants, formerly at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in India, and maternal investment and infant development in Sumatran orangutans at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany.

Curriculum Vitae


  • March 2023-present: Postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior, Advisor: Dr. Caroline Schuppli, Project: Individual variation and plasticity in maternal investment in wild Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and how it relates to variation in offspring development


  • July 2015 - January 2023: PhD scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru, India, Advisor: Prof. Dr. TNC Vidya, Thesis: Calf development, calf-conspecific interactions, and the effect of calves on female social structure in the Kabini Asian elephant population, southern India
  • June 2014 - June 2015: Project Assistant with the Kabini Asian Elephant Project, Advisor: Prof. Dr. TNC Vidya
  • May 2014 - June 2014: Intern at Indian Institute of  Science, Bengaluru, India, Advisor: Prof. Dr. Kartik Shanker
  • June 2013 - July 2013: Summer Research Fellow at the National Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhubaneswar, India, Advisor: Prof. Dr. Debasmita Pankaj Alone
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