Menu mobile menu

Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral researcher fellow at the DPZ for two years

Riana Valéry Ramanantsalama investigates the transmissibility of viruses between Malagasy wild mammals, domesticated animals and humans
Dr. Riana Valery Ramanantsalama works at the DPZ for the next two years with a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Photo: Karin Tilch
Madagaskar-Höhlenflughund (Rousettus madagascariensis). Foto: Riana Valery Ramanantsalama
Madagascar rousette (Rousettus madagascariensis). Photo: Riana Valery Ramanantsalama
Dr. Riana Valery Ramanantsalama während eines Forschungsaufenthaltes im Ankarana Naturreservat in Madagaskar. Foto: Volaniaina Miharisoa Rasoarimanana
Dr. Riana Valery Ramanantsalama during a research visit to Ankarana Nature Reserve in Madagascar. Photo: Volaniaina Miharisoa Rasoarimanana

Since the beginning of May, Riana Ramanantsalama (33) from Madagascar has been conducting research at the German Primate Center. The biologist with a PhD has received a research fellowship for postdocs from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and will work in the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit for the next two years.

Ramanantsalama has so far worked mainly on the ecology of bats and their associated pathogens. At DPZ, he now plans to study various viruses found in wild and also domesticated mammals of Madagascar.

"We want to look at whether and which viruses we find in wild mammals, such as bats and terrestrial small mammals but also lemurs or endemic carnivoran like the fossa," explains Riana Ramanantsalama. "Comparatively, we are looking at viruses in domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, pigs or even chickens."

To carry out this project, Ramanantsalama will collect saliva, fecal and blood samples from the various species living at and around the DPZ's Kirindy field station, in western Madagascar. The viruses associated with each sample will then be screened and analyzed in Göttingen at DPZ in collaboration with the Primate Genetics Laboratory.

"Our aim is to find out whether pathogens from wild animals are also transmitted to domestic animals and/or vice versa in order to understand any possible source of potential emerging disease infection for humans," says Ramanantsalama.

Bats in particular often live in the attics of buildings close to humans in Madagascar, although bats are worldly known as reservoirs of diseases. Ramanantsalama expects to look at adenoviruses, hantaviruses, coronaviruses, influenza viruses, picornavirus and rotaviruses.

Riana Ramanantsalama studied natural sciences at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar. His master's thesis, completed in 2015, focused on the endangered cichlid species Paretroplus dambabe, which is exclusively native to northwestern Madagascar. From 2017 to 2019, he completed a PhD on the ecology of the endemic Malagasy fruit bat (Rousettus madagascariensis), which is also endangered. Until the end of 2022, as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of La Reunion, in the laboratory of UMR Processus Infectieux en Milieu Insulaire Tropical (PIMIT), he studied various viruses from Malagasy bats as well as bat species from La Reunion.

"I am very happy to be here now," Ramanantsalama says. "DPZ has an excellent reputation and, with the field station in Madagascar and the analytical methods here on site, offers the best infrastructure for my research projects."

The Humboldt Research Fellowship is awarded to postdocs and experienced researchers of all nations and disciplines. The Foundation thus enables academics with above-average qualifications from all over the world to spend a research period in Germany. The research project is carried out in cooperation with academic hosts at German research institutions and can last between six and 24 months.