Onwards & Upwards!

On 30th June 2021, two of our very first M.Sc. project students, Himesh and Shagun, gave their final M.Sc. thesis presentations. It was a wonderful journey alongside them in the lab, teaching and learning at both ends.

Himesh’s work on the evolution of host-parasite relationships between geckos and mites resulted in very interesting finds. A molecular approach to identify various co-evolutionary interactions between
reptiles and scale mites showed co-speciation, host switch, and duplication. His study also revealed the niche specificity of the scale mites, where there was stark difference in the parasites on the dorsal and ventral sides of the geckos.

Shagun’s study on the disjunct distribution of the skink genus Sphenomorphus revealed the underlying factors that have contributed to their curious contemporary distribution. The results showed that the South Indian lineage surprisingly originated in Sundaland, and their present distribution in India may have been a result of transoceanic dispersal.

Although both of them will be soon graduating, they will always be a part of the BioGeoSys lab, here at NISER. We wish them luck for their futures and their forthcoming journeys into the wild, exploring the unexplored!

8-legged Adventures!

Our youngest member, Ayush, is working on the Araneid fauna of the institute’s 298 acre campus. The NISER campus features a multitude of habitats, and an even bigger collection of spiders that inhabit them. From the humongous Banyan trees to the leaf litter below our feet, spiders occupy them all. His work will provide us with a photographic database of the spiders, binding them with the specific habitats they dwell in. This resource will be used for further studies, as well as for spreading awareness about these beautiful little creatures occupying every nook and cranny they find. 
We wish him luck for his ongoing field endeavors and hope for some interesting discoveries! Some of the in-house genera he has documented till date are displayed below.

An outing to Barunei Hills

On the 14th of March, 2020, our team went out for a casual field trip to the nearby hills of Barunei, Jatni, just next to our institute. Little did we know we would encounter a novel behavioral phenomenon in anurans. In a temporary pool of water inside a rocky cave, on top of the stunted Barunei hill, we observed three species of anurans living together. We found one species, i.e., Polypedates (Rhacophoridae), breeding in the pool of water. This species lay their eggs in the form of froth/foam nests deposited in water. To our surprise, we observed one of the other con-generics, i.e., Euphlyctis (Dicroglossidae), predating upon these froth/foam nests. It was one of the most curious and exciting behavior we had observed in anurans to date.

If you are interested in reading more, here is the link to the publication: https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.6291.12.14.17041-17044