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Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie (IEA) Evolutionary Genetics Group

Natasha Arora

Phone Fax Email
+41 44 635 54 32 +41 44 635 68 04 n.arora*

Research Interests

I’m intrigued by evolutionary genetic questions. I’m especially interested in population genetics and how evolutionary processes drive patterns of genetic diversity and differentiation. Another area that I’m especially keen on is the evolutionary study of great apes, as this helps us understand what distinguishes humans. I was able to merge these two interests for my doctoral degree, exploring the effects of environmental factors as well as sex-biased dispersal on the population genetic structure of orang-utans, the only Asian great apes. More broadly, I’m interested forensic techniques, and biodiversity and conservation, as well as in several other fields including evolutionary medicine and evolutionary psychology. While I’m pretty much always thinking of evolution, if I’m not in the laboratory you’ll find me peering at insects - especially butterflies -, reading the National Geographic, hiking in the Swiss Alps, doing yoga or travelling to southern countries.

Academic Record

PhD Evolutionary Genetics, University of Zurich (2011)

MSc Biological Anthropology with Distinction, UCL, University of London (2003)

BSc Genetics, 1st Class, Queen Mary, University of London (2002)


Orangutan genes in space and time, Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich (2011)

Altruism towards non-relatives: Explanations for monetary and time support of others, Department of Biological Anthropology, University College London (UCL), University of London (2003)

R1 and R2 retrotransposable elements in Podisma pedestris, Queen Mary, University of London (2002)


  • Arora N, van Noordwijk MA, Ackermann C, Willems EP, Nater A, Greminger MP, Nietlisbach P, Dunkel L, Utami Atmoko S S, Pamungkas J, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, van Schaik CP, and Krützen M (in press). Parentage-based pedigree reconstruction reveals female matrilineal clusters and male-biased dispersal in non-gregarious Asian great apes, the Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Molecular Ecology
  • Wich SA, Krützen M, Lameira AR, Arora N, Nater A, Bastian ML, Meulman E, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Utami Atmoko SS, Pamungkas J, Perwitasari Farajalla D, Hardus ME, van Noordwijk M, van Schaik CP (in press). Call cultures in orang-utans? PLoS ONE.
  • Arora N et al. (in press). Parentage-based pedigree reconstruction reveals female matrilineal clusters and male-biased dispersal in non-gregarious Asian great apes, the Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus). Molecular Ecology
  • Nietlisbach P, Arora N, Nater A, Goossens B, van Schaik CP, Krützen M (in press). Heavily male- biased long distance dispersal of orangutans (genus: Pongo), as revealed by Y chromosomal and mitochondrial genetic markers. Molecular Ecology
  • Van Noordwijk M, Arora N, Willems EP, Dunkel LP, Amda RN, Mardianah N, Ackermann C, Krützen M, and van Schaik CP (2012). Female philopatry and its social benefits among Bornean orangutans. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
  • Arora N et al. 2010. The effects of Pleistocene glaciations and rivers on the population structure of Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (50): 21376-21381
  • Arora N 2010. Negotiating Risk: British Pakistani Experiences of Genetics (review). Human Biology 82 (1), 115-118
  • Nater A, Arora N, Greminger M, van Schaik C, Singleton I, Wich S, Fredriksson G, Perwitasari- Farajallah D, Pamungkas J, Krützen M (in review). Marked Population Structure and Recent Migration in the Critically Endangered Sumatran Orang-Utan (Pongo abelii). Journal of Heredity
  • Nater A, Nietlisbach P, Arora N, van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, Willems EP, Singleton I, Wich SA, Goossens B, Warren KS, Verschoor EJ, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Pamungkas J, Krützen M (2011). Sex-biased dispersal and volcanic activities shaped phylogeographic patterns of extant orangutans (genus: Pongo). Molecular Biology and Evolution 28 (8): 2275-2288
  • Nietlisbach P, Greminger M, Nater A, Arora N, Krützen M (2010). A multiplex-system to target 16 male-specific and 15 autosomal genetic markers for orangutans (genus: Pongo). Conservation Genetics Resources 2, 153-158
  • Arora N, van Schaik C, Nater A, Morf N, Goossens B, Pamungkas J, Perwitasari-Farajallah D, Kruetzen, M (2009) Genetic Differentiation of Bornean Orang-Utan Populations. Folia Primatologica 80 (2) : 109-110

Conference Presentations

  • Effects of Pleistocene glaciations and rivers on the population structure of Bornean orang-utans, Biology & PACE in Zurich, 2011
  • Bornean Orangutan Population History and Genetics, International Primatological Society XIII congress in Kyoto, 2010
  • Genetic Differentiation of Bornean Orang-Utan Populations, 3rd European Federation of Primatology conference in Zurich, 2009
  • The Dispersal Patterns of Wild Bornean Orangutans, Gesellschaft für Primatologie conference in Hannover, 2009
  • Genetic Identification of Confiscated Orangutans for their Release in the Wild, 2nd European Federation of Primatology conference in Prague, 2007
  • Altruism towards Non-relatives: Explanations for Monetary and Time Support of Others, HBES conference in Berlin, 2004

Academic Achievements and Activities

  • Young Scientist 1st Prize awarded by Folia Primatologica for "Wild Bornean Orangutan Population Genetics” presented at the 3rd EFP conference in Zurich, 2009
  • Bevan Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement in London, 2002
  • Organizer of the Population Genetics Reading Group, Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich (2007)
  • Organizer of Journal Club, Anthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich (2007-2009)
  • Reviewer for various journals

Relevant Research Experience

  • Teaching assistant, Evolutionary Genetics of Primates (Bio 205), University of Zurich, Zurich, 2006 - 2010
  • Teaching assistant, Evolutionary Anthropology course, University College London, University of London – Sept 2003 – Nov 2003
  • Field work in the French Alps collecting grasshopper samples.


Dr. Meredith Bastian, Philadelphia ZOO, Pennsylvania, PA, USA

Dr. Lounès Chikhi and Dr. Reeta Sharma, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Oeiras, Portugal

Dr. Benoit Goossens, Director Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah, Malaysia

Tomoko Kanamori, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

Dr. Cheryl Knott, Biological Anthropology, Harvard University, Boston, USA

Dr. Noko Kuze, Wildlife Research Center of Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Dr. Helen Morrogh Bernard, Wildlife Research Group, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Dr. Joko Pamungkas and Dr. Dyah Perwitasari-Farajallah, Primate Research Center, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia

Dr. Kris Warren, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia

Weiterführende Informationen

Natasha Arora

Natasha Arora