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Concept: Kerala


The Night Frog genus Nyctibatrachus (Family Nyctibatrachidae) represents an endemic anuran lineage of the Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot, India. Until now, it included 28 recognised species, of which more than half were described recently over the last five years. Our amphibian explorations have further revealed the presence of undescribed species of Nights Frogs in the southern Western Ghats. Based on integrated molecular, morphological and bioacoustic evidence, seven new species are formally described here as Nyctibatrachus athirappillyensis sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus manalari sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus pulivijayani sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus radcliffei sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus robinmoorei sp. nov., Nyctibatrachus sabarimalai sp. nov. and Nyctibatrachus webilla sp. nov., thereby bringing the total number of valid Nyctibatrachus species to 35 and increasing the former diversity estimates by a quarter. Detailed morphological descriptions, comparisons with other members of the genus, natural history notes, and genetic relationships inferred from phylogenetic analyses of a mitochondrial dataset are presented for all the new species. Additionally, characteristics of male advertisement calls are described for four new and three previously known species. Among the new species, six are currently known to be geographically restricted to low and mid elevation regions south of Palghat gap in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and one is probably endemic to high-elevation mountain streams slightly northward of the gap in Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, four new species are also among the smallest known Indian frogs. Hence, our discovery of several new species, particularly of easily overlooked miniaturized forms, reiterates that the known amphibian diversity of the Western Ghats of India still remains underestimated.

Concepts: Biodiversity, India, Tamil Nadu, Amphibian, Frog, Western Ghats, Kerala


BACKGROUND: The health and well-being of widows in India is an important but neglected issue of public health and women’s rights. We investigate the lives of Indian women as they become widows, focussing on the causes of their husband’s mortality and the ensuing consequences of these causes on their own lives and identify the opportunities and challenges that widows face in living healthy and fulfilling lives. METHODS: Data were collected in a Gram Panchayat (lowest level territorial decentralised unit) in the south Indian state of Kerala. Interviews were undertaken with key informants in order to gain an understanding of local constructions of ‘widowhood’ and the welfare and social opportunities for widows. Then we conducted semi-structured interviews with widows in the community on issues related to health and vulnerability, enabling us to hear perspectives from widows. Data were analysed for thematic content and emerging patterns. We synthesized our findings with theoretical understandings of vulnerability and Amartya Sen’s entitlements theory to develop a conceptual framework. RESULTS: Two salient findings of the study are: first, becoming a widow can be viewed as a type of ‘shock’ that operates similarly to other ‘economic shocks’ or ‘health shocks’ in poor countries except that the burden falls disproportionately on women. Second, widowhood is not a static phenomenon, but rather can be viewed as a multi-phased process with different public health implications at each stage. CONCLUSION: More research on widows in India and other countries will help to both elucidate the challenges faced by widows and encourage potential solutions. The framework developed in this paper could be used to guide future research on widows.

Concepts: Health, India, Tamil Nadu, South India, Amartya Sen, Kerala, Widow, Widowhood


This article highlights applied understanding of classifying earth imaging data for land cover land use change (LCLUC) information. Compared to the many previous studies of LCLUC, the present study is innovative in that it applied geospatial data, tools and techniques for transdisciplinary research. It contributes to a wider discourse on practical decision making for multi-level governance. Undertaken as part of the BioDIVA project, the research adopted a multi-tiered methodical approach across three key dimensions: socioecology as the sphere of interest, a transdisciplinary approach as the disciplinary framework, and geospatial analysis as the applied methodology. The area of interest was the agroecosystem of Wayanad district in Kerala, India (South Asia). The methodology was structured to enable analysis of multi-scalar and multi-temporal data, using Wayanad as a case study. Three levels of analysis included: District (Landsat TM-30m), Taluk or sub-district (ASTER-15m) and Village or Gram Panchayat (GeoEye-0.5m). Our hypothesis, that analyzing patterns of land use change is pertinent for up-to-date assessment of agroecosystem resources and their wise management is supported by the outcome of the multi-tiered geospatial analysis. In addition, two examples from the project that highlight the adoption of LCLUC by different disciplinary experts are presented. A sociologist assessed the land ownership boundary for a selected tribal community. A faunal ecologist used it to assess the effect of landscape structure on arthropods and plant groups in rice fields. Furthermore, the Google Earth interface was used to support the overall validation process. Our key conclusion was that a multi-level understanding of the causes, effects, processes and mechanisms that govern agroecosystem transformation requires close attention to spatial, temporal and seasonal dynamics, for which the incorporation of local knowledge and participation of local communities is crucial.

Concepts: Scientific method, Critical thinking, Assessment, Knowledge, Transdisciplinarity, Kerala, Google Earth, Geospatial


India is having rich vegetation with a wide variety of plants, because of the extreme variations in geographical and climatic conditions prevailing in the country. Plants have been used since ancient times for the treatment of various ailments. Especially, Kani tribal communities in Thodu hills of Kerlea Kerala meet their healthcare needs by using non-timber minor forest produces and preparations based on traditional knowledge. They still depend on medicinal plants and most of them have a general knowledge of medicinal plants which are used for first aid remedies, to treat cough, cold, fever, headache, poisonous bites and some simple ailments.

Concepts: Botany, India, Common cold, Tamil Nadu, South India, Ethnobotany, Kerala, Tribe


Concern around potentially increasing alcohol use among young people has been growing in public discourse in India. However, there are few published studies on this issue. We studied the prevalence, patterns and correlates of alcohol use among adolescents in Ernakulam, Kerala State, India.

Concepts: India, Tamil Nadu, States and territories of India, Kerala, Communist Party of India, States Reorganisation Act, Kochi, India, Ernakulam district


OBJECTIVES: We studied oral cancer incidence and mortality and the impact of compliance to repeat screening rounds during a 15-year follow-up in a cluster-randomized controlled trial in Trivandrum district, Kerala, India. METHODS: Healthy individuals aged 35 and above in seven clusters randomized to the intervention arm received four rounds of oral visual inspection by trained health workers at 3-year intervals, and those in six clusters randomized to the control arm received routine care during 1996-2005 and one round of visual screening during 2006-2009. Screen-positive persons were referred for diagnosis and treatment. Oral cancer incidence and mortality were compared between the study arms by intention to treat analysis. RESULTS: Of the 96,517 eligible subjects in the intervention arm, 25,144 (26.1%) had one, 22,382 (23.2%) had two, 22,008 (22.8%) had three and 19,288 (20.0%) had four rounds of screening. Of the 95,356 eligible subjects in the control group 43,992 (46.1%) received one round of screening. Although the 12% reduction in oral cancer mortality in all individuals did not reach statistical significance, there was a 24% reduction in oral cancer mortality (95% CI 3-40%) in users of tobacco and/or alcohol in the intervention arm after 4-rounds of screening; there was 38% reduction in oral cancer incidence (95% CI 8-59%) and 81% reduction in oral cancer mortality (95% CI 69-89%) in tobacco and/or alcohol users adhering to four screening rounds. CONCLUSION: Sustained reduction in oral cancer mortality during the 15-year follow-up, with larger reductions in those adhering to repeated screening rounds support the introduction of population-based screening programs targeting users of smoking or chewing tobacco or alcohol or both in high-incidence countries.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Medical statistics, Randomized controlled trial, Tobacco, Kerala, Chewing tobacco, Thiruvananthapuram


Cochin Jews form a small and unique community on the Malabar coast in southwest India. While the arrival time of any putative Jewish ancestors of the community has been speculated to have taken place as far back as biblical times (King Solomon’s era), a Jewish community in the Malabar coast has been documented only since the 9th century CE. Here, we explore the genetic history of Cochin Jews by collecting and genotyping 21 community members and combining the data with that of 707 individuals from 72 other Indian, Jewish, and Pakistani populations, together with additional individuals from worldwide populations. We applied comprehensive genome-wide analyses based on principal component analysis, F ST, ADMIXTURE, identity-by-descent sharing, admixture linkage disequilibrium decay, haplotype sharing, allele sharing autocorrelation decay and contrasting the X chromosome with the autosomes. We find that, as reported by several previous studies, the genetics of Cochin Jews resembles that of local Indian populations. However, we also identify considerable Jewish genetic ancestry that is not present in any other Indian or Pakistani populations (with the exception of the Jewish Bene Israel, which we characterized previously). Combined, Cochin Jews have both Jewish and Indian ancestry. Specifically, we detect a significant recent Jewish gene flow into this community 13-22 generations (~470-730¬†years) ago, with contributions from Yemenite, Sephardi, and Middle-Eastern Jews, in accordance with historical records. Genetic analyses also point to high endogamy and a recent population bottleneck in this population, which might explain the increased prevalence of some recessive diseases in Cochin Jews.

Concepts: Gene, Population genetics, Israel, Judaism, Hungary, Kerala, Hebrew language, Ashkenazi Jews


Despite being a recognized standard of tuberculosis (TB) care internationally, mandatory TB case notification brings forth challenges from the private sector. Only three TB cases were notified in 2013 by private practitioners compared to 2000 TB cases notified yearly from the public sector in Alappuzha district. The study objective was to explore the knowledge, opinion and barriers regarding TB Notification among private practitioners offering TB services in Alappuzha, Kerala state, India.

Concepts: Tuberculosis, India, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Communist Party of India, Alappuzha, Kuttanad, Kottayam


We report here targeted deep-sequencing metagenomic data that reveal a high level of diversity in the microbiota residing in the sediment of the Periyar River in a reserve forest of the Western Ghats. Of the 4,674 operational taxonomic units discovered, the dominant phyla represented wereProteobacteria(33.12%),Actinobacteria(14.58%),Acidobacteria(12.81%), andBacteroidetes(9.89%).

Concepts: Sediment, River, Tamil Nadu, Western Ghats, Gravel, Kerala, Periyar River, Periyar National Park


Considering Alappuzha Mud Bank in the southern Kerala coast as a typical case of biologically productive Mud Banks that form along the southwest coast of India during the Southwest Monsoon (June - September), the present study addresses several pertinent missing links between the physical environment in Mud Banks and their influence on plankton stock. This study showed that very strong coastal upwelling prevails in the entire study domain during the Southwest Monsoon, which manifests itself in the form of significantly cool, hypoxic and nitrate-rich waters surfacing near the coast. The upwelled water persisting throughout the Southwest Monsoon period was found to have fuelled the exceptionally high phytoplankton stock in the entire study area, including the Mud Bank region. Having accepted that Mud Banks are special because of the calm sea surface conditions and relatively high turbidity level in the water column around them, the present study showed that except at points close to the sea bottom, turbidity level in the Alappuzha Mud Bank was below the critical level to inhibit the plankton stock. The suspended sediments that form in the Mud Bank occasionally could be attributed to the disturbance of the bottom fluid muddy layer and their vertical spurts.

Concepts: Life, Oceanography, Phytoplankton, Aquatic ecology, Monsoon, Arizona, Kerala, Upwelling