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Staff Profile of Dr Anita Malholtra

Anita Malholtra
Senior Lecturer, Head of College of Natural Sciences Graduate School, Director of the University Doctoral School
+ 44 (0)1248 383735
School of Biological Sciences, 3rd floor, Environment Centre Wales, Bangor, Deiniol Road, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2UW, UK



My research interests include investigation of the role of natural selection in population divergence, to which I apply a wide range of methods including multivariate morphometrics, statistical hypothesis-testing, innovative field experiments and DNA (both mitochondrial and nuclear) analysis. Knowledge of the phylogenetic history of organisms has recently gained an unprecedented importance in fields other than evolution (e.g. behaviour, ecology) as it has been recognised that all species operate within its constraints. I have two main lines of phylogenetic 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 through development of collaborations to add other “omics” aspects to my genomic-focused research. This provides an opportunity to evaluate the evolution of genes affecting complex traits directly, e.g., toxin genes in Asian pitvipers. As well as relying on the availability of the organismal phylogeny, this grant drew on established collaborations to bring together disparate strands of organismal biology and ecology, evolutionary theory, comparative genomics, bioinformatics and proteomics to present an integrated picture of the evolution of snake venom components.

More recently, my research interests have widened to include other organisms apart from reptiles. For example, the recent interest in honeybee health, combined with personal involvement in beekeeping, has led me to co-ordinate a research program in collaboration with locally-based commercial and hobbyist beekeepers, to examine the main issues affecting honeybees in Wales. The honeybee is considered a “model organism”, and the availability of the entire genome sequence will allow more detailed analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of toxin genes than is currently possible in venomous snakes. In addition, the British/Welsh native black bee, a locally adapted race of Apis mellifera mellifera, is considered to be an endangered taxon and has recently been the focus of many initiatives to “recreate” its original characteristics. These mostly rely on questionable morphometric methods, and I am interested in providing genetic tools to assist these breeding projects. I have obtained the first genome sequence from a historical specimen of the UK native bee, and am currently seeking funding to develop this to investigate the historical decline of the native honeybee.




1998 BA (Hons): University of Oxford (Jesus College). 1st in Zoology (with supplementary Anthropology)

1992 PhD   University of Aberdeen, Department of Zoology. What causes geographic variation? A case study of Anolis  oculatus. Supervised by Prof. R.S. Thorpe


Oct 2001 – present: Senior Lecturer
Feb 1995 – Sep 2001: Lecturer in Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor.

Mar 1994 - Jan 1995: Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor: Systematics and evolution of SE Asian vipers (funded by a Leverhulme Trust grant to Prof. R.S. Thorpe).

Oct 1991 - Feb 1994: Postdoctoral Research Associate (named), Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen: Systematics and evolution of SE Asian vipers (funded by a Leverhulme Trust grant to Prof. R.S. Thorpe).

External Professional Activities

2014: Volume Editor (Evolution of Venomous Animals and their toxins),Handbook of Toxinology, Springer.
2014: Member of the IUCN Viper Specialist group for Asia and member of the Taxonomy working group.
2012: Fellow of the Society of Biology
2010: Scientific Board, 3rd Biology of the Vipers conference (Pisa, Italy).
2004-2007: NERC Peer Review College Member
1994/95: Joint Organiser, Zoological Society of London Symposium "Venomous snakes: Evolution, ecology and snakebite".
1994: Elected Fellow of the Linnean Society of London

I am a member of the Systematics Association, International Bee Research Association, Genetics Society, and Society for the study of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

I am also a regular reviewer for several prestigious scientific journals, including: Molecular Ecology, Evolution, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B, Proc. Roy. Soc. B, Mol. Phylogen. Evol., J. Mol. Evol., Biol. Conserv., and BMC Evol. Biol. I was named as “Top Reviewer for Molecular Ecology” in 2012, one of only 300 people worldwide.


Recent and other Other Major Publications

Malhotra A, Simon Creer, John B. Harris, Reto Stöcklin, Philippe Favreau, Roger S. Thorpe. 2013. Predicting function from sequence in a large multifunctional toxin family.  Toxicon, 72:113-25. Doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2013.06.019.
Böhm M., Collen B., Baillie J.E.M., Chanson J., Cox N., Hammerson G., Hoffmann M., Livingstone S.R. Ram M., Rhodin A.G.J., Stuart S.N., van Dijk P. P., Young B., Afuang L.E., Aghasyan A., Aguayo A.G., Aguilar C., Ajtic R., Akarsu F., Alencar L.R.V., Allison A., Ananjeva N., Anderson S., Andrén C., Ariano Sánchez D., Arredondo J.C., Auliya M., Austin C.C., Avci A., Baker P.J., Barreto-Lima A.F., Barrio-Amorós C.L., Basu D., Bates M.F., Batistella A., Bauer A., Bennett D., Böhme W., Broadley D., Brown R., Burgess J., Captain A., Carreira S., Castaneda M.R., Castro F., Catenazzi A., Cedeño-Vázquez J.R., Chapple D., Cheylan M., Cisneros-Heredia D.F., Cogalniceanu D., Cogger H., Corti C., Costa G.C., Couper P.J., Courtney T., Crnobrnja-Isailovic J., Crochet P.-A., Crother B., Cruz F., Daltry J., Daniels R.J.R., Das I., de Silva A., Diesmos A.C., Dirksen L., Doan T.M., Dodd K., Doody J.S., Dorcas M.E., Duarte de Barros Filho J., Egan V.T., El Mouden E.H., Embert D., Espinoza R.E., Fallabrino A., Feng X., Feng Z.-J., Fitzgerald L., Flores-Villela O., França  F.G.R., Frost D., Gadsden H., Gamble T., Ganesh S.R., Garcia M.A., García-Pérez J.E., Gatus J., Gaulke  M., Geniez P., Georges A., Gerlach J., Goldberg S., Gonzalez J.-C.T., Gower D.J., Grant T., Greenbaum E., Grieco C., Guo P., Hamilton A.M., Hammerson G., Hare K., Hedges B., Heideman N., Hilton-Taylor C., Hitchmough R., Hoffmann M., Hollingsworth  B., Hutchinson M., Ineich I., Iverson J., Jaksic  F.M., Jenkins R., Joger U., Jose  R., Kaska Y., Kaya U., Keogh J.S., Köhler G., Kuchling G., Kumlutaş Y., Kwet A., La Marca E., Lamar W., Lane A., Lardner B., Latta C., Latta G., Lau M., Lavin P., Lawson D., LeBreton M., Lehr E., Limpus D., Lipczynski  N., Livingstone S., Lobo A.S., López-Luna M.A., Luiselli L., Lukoschek V., Lundberg M., Lymberakis P., Macey R., Magnusson  W.E., Mahler D.L., Malhotra A., Mariaux J., Maritz B., Marques O.A.V., Márquez R., Martins M., Masterson G., Mateo J.A., Mathew R., Mathews N., Mayer G., McCranie J.R., Measey G.J., Mendoza-Quijano F., Menegon M., Métrailler S., Milton D.A., Montgomery C., Morato S.A.A., Mott T., Muñoz-Alonso A., Murphy J., Nguyen T.Q., Nilson G., Nogueira C., Nunez H., Orlov N., Ota H., Ottenwalder J., Papenfuss T., Pasachnik S., Passos P., Pauwels O.S.G., Pérez-Buitrago N., Pérez-Mellado V., Pianka E.R., Pleguezuelos J., Pollock C., Ponce-Campos P., Powell R., Pupin F., Quintero Díaz G.E., Radder R., Ramer J., Rasmussen A.R., Raxworthy C., Reynolds R., Richman N., Rico E.L., Riservato E., Rivas G., Rocha P.L.B., Rödel M.-O., Rodríguez Schettino L., Roosenburg W.M., Sadek R., Sanders K., Santos-Barrera G., Schleich H.H., Schmidt B.R., Schmitz A., Sharifi M., Shea G., Shi H., Shine R., Sindaco R., Slimani T., Somaweera R., Stafford P., Stuebing R., Sweet S., Sy E., Temple H., Tognielli M.F., Tolley K., Tolson P.J., Tuniyev B., Tuniyev S., Üzüm N., van Buurt G., Van Sluys M., Velasco A., Vences M., Veselý M., Vinke S., Vinke T., Vogel G., Vogrin M., Vogt R.C., Wearn O.R., Werner Y.L., Whiting M.J., Wiewandt T., Wilkinson J., Wilson B., Wren S., Zamin T., Zhou K., Zug G. (2013) The Conservation Status of the World’s Reptiles. Biological Conservation, 157, 372–385.
Malhotra, A., K. Dawson, P. Guo, R.S. Thorpe. 2011. Phylogenetic structure and species boundaries in the mountain pitviper Ovophis monticola (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae) in Asia. Mol. Phylogen. Evol., 59(2):444-57; doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.02.010.
Malhotra, A. Stuart BL, Mrinalini, Thorpe RS. 2011. Two New Species of Pitviper of the Genus Cryptelytrops Cope 1860 (Squamata: Viperidae: Crotalinae) from Southeast Asia.  Zootaxa, 2757: 1–23.
Guo, P. Liu Q., Li C., Chen X, Jiang K, Wang Y.Z., Malhotra, A. 2011. Molecular phylogeography of Jerdon’s pitviper (Protobothrops jerdonii): importance of the uplift of the Tibetan plateau. J. Biogeog., 38: 2326-2336.
Malhotra, A., S. Creer, C.E. Pook, R.S. Thorpe. 2010. Inclusion of nuclear intron sequence data helps to identify the Asian sister group of New World pitvipers. Mol. Phylogen. Evol., 54: 172–178.
Eales, J., R.S. Thorpe, and A. Malhotra. 2010. Colonisation history and genetic diversity: adaptive potential in early stage invasions. Mol. Ecol., 19: 2858–2869.
Dawson, K., R.S. Thorpe, and A. Malhotra. 2010. Estimating Genetic Variability in Non-Model Taxa: A General Procedure for Discriminating Sequence Errors from Actual Variation. PLoS ONE, 5(12): e15204.
Guo, P., A Malhotra, S Creer, CE Pook. 2009. An evaluation of the systematic value of skull morphology in the Trimeresurus radiation (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae) of Asian pitvipers. J. Zool. Syst. Evol. Res., 47: 378–384.
Guo, P., RC Jadin, A Malhotra, C Li. 2009. An investigation of the cranial evolution of Asian pitvipers (Serpentes: Crotalinae), with comments on the phylogenetic position of Peltopelor macrolepis. Acta Zoologica, doi:10.1111/j.1463-6395.2009.00413.x.
Guo P, A Malhotra, C Li, S Creer, CE Pook, T Wen. 2009. Systematics of the Protobothrops jerdonii complex (Serpentes, Viperidae, Crotalinae) inferred from morphometric data and molecular phylogeny. Herpetological J., 19: 85-96.
Guo P, A Malhotra, RS Thorpe, S Creer, CE Pook. 2009. Comments on the systematic status of specimens belonging to the genus Viridovipera (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae) from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of southwestern China, with special reference to V. yunnanensis. Herpetological J., 19:151-162.

Eales, J., R.S. Thorpe, and A. Malhotra. 2008. Weak founder effect signal in a recent introduction of Caribbean Anolis. Mol Ecol. 17:1416-1426.

Sanders, K.L., A. Malhotra, and R.S. Thorpe. 2006. Molecular phylogenetic evidence for a Müllerian mimetic radiation in Asian green pitvipers. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond., B., 273:1135-1141.

Creer, S., Pook, C.E., Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S. 2006. Optimal intron analyses in the Trimeresurus radiation of Asian pitvipers. . Syst. Biol., 55:57-72.

Thorpe, R.S., J.T. Reardon and A. Malhotra. 2005. Common garden and natural selection experiments support ecotypic differentiation in the Dominican anole (Anolis oculatus). Amer. Nat.,165: 495-504.

Creer, S., Malhotra, A., Stöcklin, R., Favreau, P., Thorpe, R.S., and W. –H. Chou. 2003. Hypervariability detected in intraspecific pitviper phospholipase A2 isoforms (PLA2), using matrix-assisted laser desorption time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS). J. Mol. Evol., 56:317-329.

Stenson A.G., A. Malhotra, and R.S. Thorpe. 2002. Population differentiation and nuclear gene flow in the Dominican anole (Anolis oculatus). Mol Ecol, 11:1679-1688.

Guebitz, T., R.S. Thorpe and A. Malhotra. 2000. Phylogeography and natural selection in the Tenerife gecko Tarentola delalandii: testing historical and adaptive hypotheses. Molecular Ecology 9: 1213-1221.

Malhotra, A. and R.S. Thorpe. 2000. The dynamics of natural selection and vicariance in the Dominican anole: patterns of within-island molecular and morphological divergence. Evolution 54: 245-258.

Thorpe, R.S. and A. Malhotra. 1996. Molecular and morphological evolution within small islands. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B., 351: 815-822.

Thorpe, R.S., H. Black and A. Malhotra. 1996. Mantel tests on the DNA phylogeny of the Tenerife lacertid elucidate both historical causes and morphological adaptation. Syst. Biol., 45(3):335-343

Malhotra, A. and R.S. Thorpe. 1991. Experimental detection of rapid evolutionary response in natural lizard populations. Nature, 353:347-348.



BITES (Bioinformatics and Information Technology to address Envenomation by Snakes): an International Research Staff Exchange Scheme funded by the EC (Dec 2013-2016).
India has the globally highest annual death rate from venomous snake bites and in some states it is the largest contributor to mortality, exceeding even AIDS and malaria. Clinical management of snake bites requires timely administration of antivenin, neutralizing the life-threatening toxins in snake venom. Snake venom composition varies both between and within species, and so the design and production of efficient antivenins depends on thorough understanding of venomous snake diversity and distribution. This four-year project addresses the lack of studies investigating the link between venomous snake systematics and regional venom variation in India, through collaboration between taxonomists, molecular biologists, protein biologists and herpetologists based in the EU (Drs Anita Malhotra, Wolfgang Wüster and John Mulley from Bangor University, Prof Juan Calvete from Spain and Dr Ulrich Kuch from Germany) and India (Drs BL Dhananjaya from Jain Universityand Kartik Shanker from the Indian Institute of Sciences, both in Bangalore, and Dr Robin Doley from Tezpur University, aAsam). The resulting biological information and standards will contribute to improving the outcome of snake envenomations and providing a baseline for future work.

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