Few projects fall within our conservation genetics research theme and include:

  • DNA barcoding for species identification in particular freshwater eels (Anguilla spp.)
  • Population genetics for conservation and aquaculture, especially for the native Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus).
  • Effect of river fragmentation of native species, including the KZN yellowfish (Labeobarbus natalensis)
  • eDNA studies for distribution and diversity studies in KZN, South Africa and throughout Africa.


Client and/or collaborating stakeholders: Conservation genetic lab at UKZN (Dr Sandi Willow Munro)

Interesting and important outcomes/prospects:

Although our knowledge of the distribution, ecology and biology of African freshwater eel species remains poor, we have shown that CO1 barcoding is a method that is rapid and cost-effective and should be considered for further studies in southern Africa. Its suitability also resides in the fact that it is a non-destructive method, applicable to all different life stages, which is particularly relevant to species that are vulnerable.

Results from the present study indicated low genetic diversity within the farmed populations compared with that recorded for the natural populations of Mozambique Tilapia Oreochromis mossambicusfrom surrounding rivers. High genetic differentiation was also seen between farmed and natural populations of O. mossambicus and source population for the two farmed populations could not be identified. This suggested that farmed populations are not representative of the natural populations from the four surrounding rivers and should not be released to supplement natural populations. Evaluation of the natural O. mossambicus populations from 13 river catchments indicated low genetic diversity and high population structure. Biological, ecological and anthropogenic events were found to have influenced the observed genetic population structure of the species. Hybridisation and introgression of natural O. mossambicus with the introduced O. niloticus and O. aureus was also detected at low levels, which suggested that most natural populations remain genetically uncontaminated by these introduced species.


Key publications :

Hanzen, C., Lucas, M.C., O’Brien, G., Downs, C.T., Willows-Munro, S., 2020. African freshwater eel species (Anguilla spp.) identification through DNA barcoding. Marine and Freshwater Research. https://doi.org/10.1071/MF19390

For more information contact: HanzenC@ukzn.ac.za