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Concept: Tamil Nadu


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


Previous studies that pooled Indian populations from a wide variety of geographical locations, have obtained contradictory conclusions about the processes of the establishment of the Varna caste system and its genetic impact on the origins and demographic histories of Indian populations. To further investigate these questions we took advantage that both Y chromosome and caste designation are paternally inherited, and genotyped 1,680 Y chromosomes representing 12 tribal and 19 non-tribal (caste) endogamous populations from the predominantly Dravidian-speaking Tamil Nadu state in the southernmost part of India. Tribes and castes were both characterized by an overwhelming proportion of putatively Indian autochthonous Y-chromosomal haplogroups (H-M69, F-M89, R1a1-M17, L1-M27, R2-M124, and C5-M356; 81% combined) with a shared genetic heritage dating back to the late Pleistocene (10-30 Kya), suggesting that more recent Holocene migrations from western Eurasia contributed <20% of the male lineages. We found strong evidence for genetic structure, associated primarily with the current mode of subsistence. Coalescence analysis suggested that the social stratification was established 4-6 Kya and there was little admixture during the last 3 Kya, implying a minimal genetic impact of the Varna (caste) system from the historically-documented Brahmin migrations into the area. In contrast, the overall Y-chromosomal patterns, the time depth of population diversifications and the period of differentiation were best explained by the emergence of agricultural technology in South Asia. These results highlight the utility of detailed local genetic studies within India, without prior assumptions about the importance of Varna rank status for population grouping, to obtain new insights into the relative influences of past demographic events for the population structure of the whole of modern India.

Concepts: Sociology, Genetic genealogy, India, Y chromosome, Tamil Nadu, South India, Tamil language, Tamil people


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


Eleven new diterpenes, named decandrins A-K (1-11), including nine abietanes (1-9) and two podocarpanes (10-11), were isolated from the barks of an Indian mangrove, Ceriops decandra, collected in the mangrove swamp of Godavari estuary, Andhra Pradesh, together with four known abietanes. The structures of these compounds were established on the basis of spectroscopic data (new compounds) or comparison with data in the literature (known compounds). This is the first report of abietane and podocarpane diterpenoids from C. decandra.

Concepts: India, Tamil Nadu, Bay of Bengal, Mangrove, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Krishna River, Godavari River


Between-group encounters are an obvious outcome of intergroup competition. Between-group encounters in primates range from avoidance to fatally aggressive. The prevailing hypotheses explain such encounters as mate defense strategy by males and resource defense strategy by females. However, the rate and nature of between-group encounters may also be influenced by habitat and demographic characteristics. We studied the effect of forest fragment size on group encounters in lion-tailed macaques in the Western Ghats of southern India. The encounter rate decreased as the fragment size increased. Group density and home range overlap correlated positively with the encounter rate. The aggressive encounters were more in the relatively medium-sized fragment where the observed frequency of between-group encounters was higher than the expected frequency than in the small fragment and the large forest complex. Together, these results indicate a complex pattern of effects of fragment size on between-group encounters in primates.

Concepts: Macaque, Frequency, India, Tamil Nadu, South India, Western Ghats, Lion-tailed Macaque, Silent Valley National Park


Male takeover and infanticide are a widespread phenomenon among non-human primates, observed mostly in species with a relatively longer lactation in relation to gestation. In this study, we report for the first time an episode of male takeover and infanticide, and the rarely reported occurrence of an all-male band and female dispersal, in Nilgiri langurs, Semnopithecus johnii, in the Western Ghats, India. The new male was a member of an all-male band. After the takeover, the resident male and 3 juvenile males left the group and joined the all-male band. A female whose infant was killed was found missing after some days. There were significant changes in the patterns of social interactions among the resident group females soon after the male takeover, wherein the females spent less time on social interactions as compared to before and after the episode of takeover. The new male rarely interacted with the females soon after the takeover. We also observed that the resident group shifted its home range to a poorer quality habitat. © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Concepts: Human, Male, Reproduction, Female, Sociology, Primate, Tamil Nadu, Western Ghats


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


Long-term outcome studies in Takayasu arteritis (TA) are few and limited by small sample size. In this study, we analysed the outcome of treatment in a large series of TA patients with a minimum follow-up period of ≥12 months by objective instruments.

Concepts: Medicine, Sample size, Hospital, Cardiology, India, Tamil Nadu, Takayasu's arteritis, Arteritis


Endemicity of onchocerciasis (river blindness) in humans is linked to the location of Simulium spp. (black fly). The distribution of immature stages of Simulium in Sholur, Pykara, Gudalur, Coonoor and Kotagiri streams of the Nilgiris hills of Tamil Nadu was investigated during the months of May and July 2012. Out of these five streams, only Sholur was infested with larval and pupal stages of Simulium spp. Out of six plants collected from various water bodies, larval and pupal stages were found on the leaves and stems of an aquatic plant Nasturtium officinale and on the roots and leaves of Pennisetum glandulosum. The stages of Simulium were observed only during the summer month of May.

Concepts: Nematocera, Water, Plant morphology, Flies, Tamil Nadu, Fly, Aquatic plant, Watercress