Dr Gavin Gouws

Landing site, Matemwe, Zanzibar A fisher and his catch, Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar Landing site, Mwaepe, Kenya
Fish merchant, Le Morne, Mauritius Malindi landing site, Zanzibar R/V. Dr. Fridtjof Nansen in port, Mauritius
Aquatic Biologist
Dr Gavin Gouws
Tel : +27 46 603 5843
Fax : +27 46 622 2403

View CV

Research Interests

Biodiversity science and the molecular systematics of aquatic organisms.

Specifically, this includes taxonomy, systematics, phylogenetics, biogeography, phylogeography and population genetics of marine fishes (mostly tropical and subtropical, reef-associated taxa), and freshwater fishes and invertebrates (notably Crustacea).

Within these fields, I aim to address a number of fundamental issues. I routinely use genetic data to delineate species or test species boundaries, aiding taxonomy, in various taxa. My phylogenetic research addresses higher relationships within a number of taxa (e.g., cardinalfishes and snappers), to improve the existing taxonomy. These phylogenies are also applied to investigate the evolution of morphological, behavioural and physiological traits.

A thrust of my research investigates whether dispersal and vicariant biogeographic hypotheses explain patterns of species distribution and endemism, and contemporary spatial genetic diversity in the Western Indian Ocean and in southern African catchments. I am interested in how intraspecific phylogeographic structure, the distribution of genetic diversity and finer-scale patterns of gene flow intersect with higher biogeographic patterns in marine systems and freshwater environments; a key question being the influence of intrinsic life history features and extrinsic environmental features.

Recently, I have become interested in pursuing NGS and genomic approaches to look at the selective influence of features (such as environmental gradients) on genetic structure in non-neutral markers, with a view to understanding physiological adaptations and gene expression.

My population genetic work generally has a conservation or management focus, identifying fisheries stocks in the south-western Indian Ocean and along the South African coast or evolutionarily significant units in freshwater systems for conservation. My research has coupled population genetic studies and ecological approaches (traditional mark-recapture studies) to determine effective dispersal and gene flow in marine fish species.

Future research will investigate the invasion pathways of non-native taxa in freshwater.

Current Students

Recent Peer-Reviewed Publications

Google Scholar Profile


Uiblein F & Gouws G. 2014. A new goatfish species of the genus Upeneus (Mullidae) based on molecular and morphological screening and subsequent taxonomic analysis. Marine Biology Research 10: 655-681.


Gon O, Gouws G, Mwaluma J & Mwale M. 2013. Re-description of two species of the cardinalfish genus Archamia (Teleostei: Apogonidae) from the Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean. Zootaxa 3608: 587-594.

Gouws G & Stewart BA. 2013. Molecular species boundaries in the phreatoicidean genus Amphisopus (Isopoda: Amphisopidae) and evidence for a new freshwater isopod species from Western Australia. Invertebrate Systematics 27: 173-185.

Chakona A, Swartz ER, Gouws G & Bloomer P. 2013. A freshwater fish defies ancient mountain ranges and drainage divides: extrinsic and intrinsic influences on the evolutionary history of a newly discovered galaxiid. Journal of Biogeography 40: 1399-1412.

Chakona A, Swartz ER & Gouws G. 2013. Evolutionary drivers of diversification and distribution of a southern temperate stream fish assemblage: testing the role of historical isolation and spatial range expansion. PLoS One 8(e70953): 1-13

Muths, D., G. Gouws, M. Mwale, E. Tessier and J. Bourjea (2012) Genetic connectivity of the reef fish Lutjanus kasmira at the scale of the western Indian Ocean. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 69: 842-853.


Muths D, Gouws G, Mwale M. Tessier E & Bourjea J. 2012. Genetic connectivity of the reef fish Lutjanus kasmira at the scale of the western Indian Ocean. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 69: 842-853.


Muths D, Tessier E, Gouws G, Craig M, Mwale M, Mwaluma J, Mwandya A & Bourjea J. 2011. Restricted dispersal of the reef fish Myripristis berndti at the scale of the SW Indian Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series 443: 167-180.