What I did on my birthday

I had fun. I skipped breakfast because we were leaving early for the 1.5 hour drive to the IISER campus in the foothills of the Western Ghats, but on the way Hema, my delightful host, told me there were 11 species of bananas sold in Kerala stores. When I immediately expressed interest, she said, “Would you like to try some?” You know my answer, so she found a good fruit stand and I bought five kinds of bananas. I tried every one: all were different and delicious. The best were the redddish-orange ones, which were very sweet, and the tiny yellow ones, which were sweet but with a nice overtone of sourness.

We spotted a wild bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) by the roadside, and of course I fed it a banana, which he seemed to appreciate. He gently took it from my hand.


The IISER campus where I was to speak is in the foothills of the Western Ghats, and we took a side trip up to the top of a local peak.

On the way, we watched rubber trees being tapped: they make a spiral slash in the bark four times a year, and catch the extruded latex in half a coconut. (More photos in later posts).

I had a simple meal in the student canteen (veg with a side of chicken):

And I lectured to the students about my fly research. I took a photo of the audience while they were introducing me.

All in all, not a half bad birthday.



  1. Orli Peter
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink


    Happy birthday! I didn’t know, but I’m glad you had a nice time. You deserve to be celebrated. I’m so grateful for you.



  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I…. did NOT do that on my birthday.

    I also didn’t do any of that on any of my unbirthdays.

    Maybe I hiked a mountain a few times but it took all day each time.

  3. BJ
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Man, bonnet macaques are weird looking. They look like old men with goiters.

  4. Claudia Baker
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Now, *that’s* a nice birthday!

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    That bonnet macaque looks like someone I’ve met. And that hair — a very hip, contemporary style.

    In keeping with the fact that Kwanzaa is the brainchild of Maulana Ron Karenga, I wish the creator of Koynezaa, Meowlana Jerry Coyne a very happy birthday!

    And now that my mind has been primed for groan-inducing wordplay this a.m., I can’t resist noting — given that toxoplasmosis is said to induce explosive anger syndrome, it might be more apropos to say “catshit crazy” instead of batshit crazy.

    • Liz
      Posted December 30, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      “…now that my mind has been primed for…wordplay…”

      A Birthday Bananza!

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 30, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        Yeah! A primate’s delight.

  6. nicky
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday!
    Those variety of bananas looks, well, like a variety.
    IIRC, the Western Ghats are a hotspot of biodiversity, are they not?

    • Posted December 30, 2017 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes they are, and undoubtedly contain thousands of undescribed species of insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

  7. Randy Bessinger
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday! Glad you had a good one.

  8. amyt
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Happy Birthday!!
    BTW…is the audience segregated by gender? Looks that way to me.

    • Posted December 30, 2017 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Not on purpose, and you can see a few guys sitting next to girls. In the cafeteria there’s plenty of tables containing both men and women. But archaic views of sex still hold in some of these colleges: in the place I spoke in town in Trivandrum, the women’s hostel is locked at 6 pm and if you’re not inside you’re screwed (figuratively). If you manage to talk your way in, they inform your parents and you’re also in big trouble with the school. Women are making progress here, but there’s still inequality. But in IISER, where the photo was taken, the ratio of women to men is higher than 50/50 and they are treated equally. Any segregation is self segregation.

  9. Susan D.
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Hope you had a great birthday Jerry. Many happy returns from Australia.

  10. Posted December 30, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday to you!

  11. Hempenstein
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    How do the vendors keep the macaques off the bananas?

    • Posted December 30, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      With diligence. They also go into people’s kitchens and steal food.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        As sorta suspected. (Do they ever team up?)

        At least the one you encountered sounds like s/he was polite about it. Or else saw you as a soft touch. 🙂

  12. Posted December 30, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read that the Western Ghats is (are?) one of the “hot spots” in the world for biodiversity. Enjoy your time there.

  13. DrBeydon
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday, Jerry!

  14. Helen Hollis
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Belated Happy Birthday!

  15. Don Mackay
    Posted December 30, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    My genetics lecturer at Uni back in the day described the study of your ‘fly’ as drosophilosophy; which makes you a drosophilosopher! I think the term might have have been coined by Dobzhansky.
    May you have a happy passing of another year.

  16. Alex K.
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    The Western Ghats. So you’re not far from where the Deccan Traps were deposited about 66 million years ago?

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