Roberto De Nobili

“He started wearing ochre-robes, wooden shoes; gave up meat and carried danda (stick) and kamandalu (water jug) like a Hindu monk. He started wearing Gandha (Sandal paste) and shaved his head. But he was careful enough to obtain prior permission from Archbishop stationed at Crangnoor. He engaged a Brahmin cook, ate only rice and vegetables and started sleeping on the floor. He spent time studying Sanskrit and holy books besides writing Christian psalms and prayers in Tamil. Opened a school of catechism and slowly started introducing Christian theology. He became an “Iyer” (preceptor) to local people who started venerating him for his austere life, kind manners and healing powers which he had acquired modestly”

via Roberto De Nobili.


Rare photos of Pandurang Khankhoje, an Indian revolutionary in 1920s Mexico


Diego Rivera, the greatest Mexican painter and muralist, was the catalyst that brought these two interesting personalities together. Rivera had developed a fondness and respect for Khankhoje’s work and indeed small, but significant, agricultural details can be seen in some of his major works. After his return from Russia, the artist had developed an interest in the Russian Revolution and this was another common meeting ground with Khankhoje. Rivera supported the Free Schools of Agriculture started by the Indian and was one of its major patrons. It was only natural that Khankhoje, serving as a Professor of Genetics in the same school, would meet and interact with Rivera, as the artist had already painted him in his mural in the Ministry of Education.


Spider diversity in epiphytes

Spider diversity in epiphytes: Can shade coffee plantations promote the conservation of cloud forest assemblages? .
Francisco Emmanuel Méndez-Castro, Dinesh Rao
Cloud forests (CF) are disappearing due to anthropogenic causes such as cultivation. A characteristic feature of the CF is that a high proportion of its biomass occurs in the form of epiphytes, which are vital microhabitats to canopy dwelling arthropods. Coffee plantations overlap with CF and replace them. Epiphytes are abundant in shade coffee (SC) plantations and therefore these plants are an appropriate background for comparing the diversity between these systems. Spiders are understudied in canopies, and since they are major predators and their communities are highly sensitive to environmental changes, they can be used to test the similarity between habitats. We conducted a diversity assay of spiders living in epiphytes in cloud forest fragments and SC plantations, to test the hypothesis that SC plantations function as refugia. We manually sampled epiphytes within the canopy of two coffee plantations and two fragments of cloud forest in central Veracruz, Mexico. Our results show that SC plantations account for higher spider abundance and species richness than cloud forest fragments, there is little overlap between the species found in both systems, and the range of distribution and the guild structure of the spider assemblages between both systems is similar. As there were no significant differences between cloud forest fragments and SC plantations in terms of spider species assemblages, species distribution and guild structure the epiphytes from the SC plantations can be consider a refuge for the spider fauna from the surrounding cloud forest fragments. Epiphyte load and tree height are important factors driving the differentiation at community level, between sites and habitats. Bromeliads harbored more spiders than the other types of epiphytes, and since these plants are frequently removed by farmers or extracted for commercial and religious purposes, we suggest that preserving epiphytes in coffee plantations and cloud forest fragments could aid in the conservation of spiders.

We See a Different Frontier update

Over the past few months, there have been a number of reviews of this anthology. Here are a few that refer to A Bridge of Words:

Fantastica-Ficcion: “el relato que más sobresale”!

Adventures of a Bookonaut: “hidden histories”

Sami and Nemanja go to the movies: “aspects of it interesting, amusing and annoying all at once”

A Dribble of Ink: “of language and history and aliens”

Also, the story was nominated for the BSFA awards! 



Todo o Nada

During my two years in Israel, I heard a lot of local music and found a few favourites. Not artists as such, but rather albums. Two in particular stayed with me for a long time, and to this day I react with pleasure when some quirk of the shuffle system plays songs from these albums unexpectedly. The first was Muscat by Shalom Hanoch and Arik Einstein, and the second was Ze hakol o klum by David Broza. I particularly liked this latter album so much, that I even went to a David Broza concert in the middle of the desert once. OF course all the songs were in Hebrew, so though I could pick out odd words here and there, the lyrics made no difference to me, and I treated the voice as just another instrument. I listened to Broza’s album incessantly, till even now my brain anticipates the song, and I can instantly recognize the song from a few seconds.

Today I was reading an article on  Tablet magazine and an ad popped up for David Broza’s new album. So finally after more than a decade, I decided to see what his new music sounded like. And then I saw that he’d released a version of Ze Hakol o Klum in spanish (now called Todo o nada). Spotify is now in Mexico, and so I gave it a whirl, with no small amount of trepidation. How would the knowledge of what the song is about affect my feel for the music? If the lyrics were terrible, would I cease to listen to the hebrew music in the same way? Would the new knowledge add or subtract?

I heard my favourite songs again and with great relief, as I understood them for the first time, that no, it wasn’t as I feared. While it’s true that a lot of the mystery of the song’s contents vanished, I didn’t mind it at all. I quite enjoyed the spanish versions. It was like seeing a familiar face with a beard, or identical twins wearing different clothes. The funny thing was that my brain kept trying to autocomplete the songs in my head, and failing. Flailing. So now I have both versions and it’ll be interesting to see which I prefer in the days to come.

Here’s a performance on Youtube (Hebrew version):

And here’s the same song, in Spanish



New paper out

The effect of irradiation and mass rearing on the anti-predator behaviour of the Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens (Diptera: Tephritidae)

D. Raoa1 c1, S. Aguilar-Argüelloa1, P. Montoyaa2 and F. Díaz-Fleischera1


a1 Inbioteca, Universidad Veracruzana, Av. de las Culturas Veracruzanas, No.101, Col. E. Zapata, C.P. 91090, Xalapa, Veracruz, México

a2 Programa Moscafrut SAGARPA-IICA, Camino a los Cacahotales S/N, C. P. 30860 Metapa de Domínguez, Chiapas, México




Fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) are major pests worldwide. The sterile insect technique, where millions of flies are reared, sterilized by irradiation and then released, is one of the most successful and ecologically friendly methods of controlling populations of these pests. The mating behaviour of irradiated and non-irradiated flies has been compared in earlier studies, but there has been little attention paid to the anti-predator behaviour of mass-reared flies, especially with respect to wild flies. Tephritid flies perform a supination display to their jumping spider predators in order to deter attacks. In this study, we evaluated the possibility of using this display to determine the anti-predator capabilities of mass-reared irradiated, non-irradiated flies, and wild flies. We used an arena setup and observed bouts between jumping spiders (Phidippus audax Hentz) and male Mexican fruit flies (Anastrepha ludens Loew). We show that although all flies performed a supination display to their predator, wild flies were more likely to perform a display and were significantly more successful in avoiding attack than mass-reared flies. We suggest that this interaction can be used to develop a rapid realistic method of quality control in evaluating anti-predator abilities of mass-reared fruit flies.