Diversity of the Southern African temperate ichthyofauna
The southern African fauna has a high level of endemicity and intriguing relationships with fishes in neighbouring regions. In addition several species are threatened and thus a high conservation priority. Recent molecular systematic studies on have found more diversity within taxa than was previously known. Both climatic (sea level changes) and geological (e.g. river capture) processes would have played a critical role in the diversification of Cape Floristic Region fish species, but most notably the most recent major sea level regression would have allowed connection between many currently isolated river systems.
Molecular studies allow us to link historical diversification to these climatic and geological events to improve our understanding of the biogeography and evolution of the temperate ichthyofauna. The main aim of the research is to identify historically isolated lineages and important rivers for the conservation of these lineages. Understanding relationships between historically isolated lineages will shed light on the evolution of drainages in the Cape Floristic Region and other Southern African temperate areas.
Our research is currently focussed on the genetic diversity of Eastern Cape fishes (Olaf Weyl), the impact of alien invasive fishes on endangered fish in headwater streams of the Eastern Cape (Bruce Ellender PhD project), comparartive phylogeography of fishes from the Breede and associated river systems (Albert Chakona PhD project), hybridisation of labeos in South Africa (Mpho Ramoejane MSc project), the ecology of Cape fishes in relation to genetic diversity (Dr. Kit Magellan and Albert Chakona) and the phylogenetic relationships of Galaxias (Dr. Bob McDowall).