Dr Anita Malhotra

Reader in Zoology (Molecular Ecology)

My research interests focus on the role of natural selection in population adaptation and divergence, to which I apply a wide range of methods including multivariate morphometrics, statistical hypothesis-testing, innovative field experiments and genome analysis. I have two main areas of research on disparate organisms in different geographical regions (Anolis lizards in the Caribbean and Asian pit vipers), which are unified by being essentially focussed on the interface between evolution and ecology, and with an emphasis on the integration of genetic and phenetic data. More recently, my research has moved into the field of ecological and evolutionary genomics to evaluate the evolution of genes affecting complex traits directly and relies on the availability of a well-supported and complete organismal phylogeny of Asian pitvipers generated by my students and myself. Drawing on numerous collaborations to bring together disparate strands of organismal biology and ecology, evolutionary theory, comparative genomics, bioinformatics and proteomics, I aim to develop an integrated picture of the evolution of snake venom components. Another strand to this research on venomous snakes involves snakebite mitigation, and I am currently involved in several projects in India on this topic.

I am also involved in research on the genetic health of honeybees, sparked off by personal involvement in beekeeping. I am also involved in projects on the genetic identification of British/Welsh native black bee, a locally adapted race of Apis mellifera mellifera, and an endangered taxon which is the focus of many initiatives to “recreate” its original characteristics. However, identification of “near-native” stocks mostly rely on morphometric methods, which may not be accurate enough for this purpose after many generations of admisxture with other subspecies and requires verification using molecular methods. With the aid of a genome sequence from a historical specimen of native bee developed during a period of study leave, a cost-effective tool for rapidly assaying the amount of native genomic contribution present in current stocks is part of a PhD studentship funded by the Drapers’ Trust (with Dr Paul Cross).