This year's Arnold Berliner Award goes to Deni Purwandana of the Komodo Survival Program in Bali, Indonesia. He receives the award for his article on changes in feeding habits of the largest living species of lizard, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). The research is published in Springer's flagship multidisciplinary journal, The Science of Nature. Formerly known as Naturwissenschaften, the journal has been publishing scientific work from around the world for over 100 years.
Komodo dragons can live for up to 60 years and reach a body weight of 90 kg. Purwandana and his colleagues observed that the Komodo dragon changes its prey size preferences and the use of its ecological niche with age and size. When the lizards weigh less than 20 kg they adopt a highly active foraging strategy for smaller prey. Dragons weighing over 20 kg sit and wait to hunt large mammals such as deer. Purwandana and his co-authors conclude that exploiting different sizes of prey in different landscapes allows the Komodo dragon to optimise their use of limited resources in an island habitat.
Sven Thatje, Editor-in-Chief of The Science of Nature, said: "Given the observed changes throughout ontogeny in this species, it is most likely that the larger Komodo dragons do possess a more efficient pattern of energy use, as their hunting strategy is highly specialized."
Deni Purwandana is a field officer at the Komodo Survival Program (KSP) in Bali, Indonesia. Since 2001, he has been involved in terrestrial wildlife ecology research with particular focus on fieldwork to collect data on population, nesting and demography of the Komodo dragon. In addition to his research, he is actively involved as contributor and consultant for documentary programmes on the Komodo dragon which have been produced by a wide variety of international media.
The Arnold Berliner Award was established in 2013 in recognition of the journal's founding editor. The award is given to the principal author of an outstanding scholarly work published in The Science of Nature in the previous calendar year. Criteria for the Arnold Berliner Award are excellence in science, originality and, in particular, interdisciplinarity, which mirrors Berliner's motivation for founding the journal in 1913. Berliner was editor-in-chief of the journal for an exceptionally long period of 22 years. His activities were influential and at the heart of academic life and society of his time.
Peer-reviewed and published in English, The Science of Nature is dedicated to the fast publication and global dissemination of high-quality research of interest to the broader community in the biological sciences. Papers from the chemical, geological and physical sciences, which contribute to questions of general biological significance, are published. The overall aim of The Science of Nature is to promote excellence in research and the exchange of ideas in the biological sciences and beyond.
Reference: Purwandana, D., et al. Ecological allometries and niche use dynamics across Komodo dragon ontogeny, Sci Nat (2016) 103: 27. doi:10.1007/s00114-016-1351-6