Marine Biology

Schizosmittina lizzya

Systematics, biodiversity and zoogeography of Bryozoans (Wayne K. Florence)

Even though marine invertebrates such as polychaetes, hydroids, echinoderms, amphipods, decapods, nudibranchs, octocorals and ascidians have been given much attention, experts working on them are unanimous in their opinion that these taxa may be significantly more diverse than those documented. Wayne Florence aims to document the taxonomy, diversity and biogeography of South African Bryozoans.

Shark Research Center (Leonard Compagno)

The SRC serves as a local and international source of public information on the shark-like fishes, including lectures, advise to commercial fisheries and institutional research bodies, to the news media, and to film-makers. SRC promotes a factual view of the relationship of shark-like fishes to human activities.

Lantern Fish (P.A. Hulley)

Lantern fishes (family Myctophidae) are the most speciose (65%) and largest component (600-million metric tonnes) of the World’s mesopelagic fish biomass. In South Africa (as elsewhere) there is a paucity of knowledge of lantern fishes. The research objective is therefore to provide information for both pure science and for fishery management. Furthermore, our understanding of deep-sea ecological processes will be increased. At present, research is focused on the systematics, distribution and ecology of lantern fishes. Since there are no endemic South African species, this research is undertaken within a global context.


Systematics, evolution and biology of insects (Simon van Noort)

Simon van Noort’s research focuses on the systematics, molecular phylogenetics and biology of fig wasps; systematics, species richness and bioinformatics of wasps; and the diversity and biology of terrestrial invertebrates.

Systematics, ecology and biology of southern African ants (Hamish Robertson and Nokuthula Mbanyana)

Ants are among the most conspicuous organisms that one encounters in terrestrial landscapes and they have a profound influence on most terrestrial plants and animals through their predatory, scavenging and symbiotic behaviour. Ecologists often need to be able to identify ants because they are having an impact on the system being studied. Ants are also often used as biological indicators in ecological assessments because of the relative ease with which they can be sampled.


Ammonite faunas of southern Africa and their use in biostratigraphy (Herbert Klinger)

Ammonites are extinct, probably squid-like animals that had an external shell that was used for flotation. They are a very useful group to use in dating geological sediments because of their rapid rate of evolution, sometimes as little as 0,5 million years, coupled with a wide geographic distribution. The main objective of this research programme is to fully describe the ammonite faunas from southern Africa, to compare them with similar faunas from other parts of the world, and to compile a detailed geological calendar based on the ammonite succession. The ultimate aim is to compile a series of atlases to fully illustrate the ammonite faunas from southern Africa, and to integrate the ammonite biozonation with zonations based on other faunas and floras as well as chemical signatures.

Terrestrial palaeoecology and sedimentary environments of Karoo-aged basins of southern Gondwana (Roger Smith)

The Karoo regions of South Africa are acknowledged as the richest collecting grounds for therapsid fossils in the world. These vertebrate fossils, commonly known as mammal-like reptiles, record in detail the evolutionary transition of reptiles into mammals. The aim of this research programme is to learn more about past life on Earth and the environmental changes that have taken place over geological time. In particular, the goal is to document the major extinction event that devastated the earth’s biota at the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago, and how the terrestrial ecosystem recovered.


Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction from the analysis of micromammal remains (Margaret Avery)

Margaret Avery is a palaeoecologist who specialises in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction based on the remains of micromammals (rats and mice) from archaeological and palaeontological sites. Ancillary interests include establishing the vegetational and climatic controls on modern micromammals, and the potential of modern barn owl prey remains for providing environmental information.

Hominids and Hominid ecology in the Fynbos Biome (Deano Stynder)

Deano Stynder is  interested in our evolution and the ecological contexts in which we evolved. In the study of human evolution, it is important to realize that our ancestors did not exist in isolation of their environments. Their lives were intricately woven into the fabric of past and changing ecologies. Their interaction with other species and environments were critical factors in shaping their morphology and also in driving further evolutionary change. Thus, in order to gain an understanding of our earliest ancestors, it is important to also study the other species with which they shared the environment

Archaeozoology (Graham Avery)

Graham Avery's research focuses on the past half million years, primarily in the western Cape. The aim is to create greater understanding of how Stone Age people interacted with the animals around them and adapted to the changing environments in which they lived. At the same time this research provides information on the distribution and changing diversity of the animals themselves.