Welcome to the Website of the 
Aquatic Division of the EGWC

The Centre for Ecological Genomics & Wildlife Conservation is a molecular research laboratory based at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. 

The Aquatic Division uses genetic and genomic tools to study marine and freshwater animals in southern Africa and elsewhere. Our main focus areas are biogeography, phylogeography, phylogenetics, population genetics, genomics/transcriptomics, conservation biology and invasion biology.

Prof. Peter Teske, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park 2006, Johannesburg, South Africa; Email: pteske101@gmail.com

                                                                                             Photo: Robert Harcourt

Latest Publications:

Teske PR, Golla TR, Sandoval-Castillo J, Emami-Khoyi A, van der Lingen C, von der Heyden S, Chiazzari B, Jansen van Vuuren B, Beheregaray LB (2018)
Mitochondrial DNA is unsuitable to test for isolation by distance. Scientific Reports 8:8448.

What is it about?
Tests for isolation by distance (IBD) are the most commonly used method for studying spatial genetic structure. If IBD is present, then the greater the geographic distance between two populations, the greater the genetic differentiation between them will be. This has important implications for the management of exploited or endangered species, because when IBD is present, it cannot simply be assumed that a population that has become extinct or depleted in one location will be readily replenished from elsewhere in its range. 

The genetic marker that is most frequently used to test for IBD is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the same marker that is also used for DNA barcoding. However, this marker is often in conflict with other genetic markers, such as nuclear microsatellites or SNPs. In the present study, we show that microsatellites are more likely to identify IBD than is mtDNA and, using coastal organisms with very high dispersal potential as an example, we show that comprehensive microsatellite and SNP data sets may identify IBD when mtDNA does not. We conclude that mtDNA is highly unreliable and should no longer be used to test for IBD. SNP data on the other hand, which may comprise thousands of variable genetic sites from all over the genome, represent the "gold standard" about whether or not IBD is present. 

This study illustrates an important implication of the fact that one of the cornerstones of modern genetics, the "neutral theory of evolution", does not apply to mtDNA. The reason for this is that, contrary to popular belief, this marker tends to be under strong selection. In the present case, the failure to reliably identify IBD is likely a result of a selection-driven reduction in genetic diversity obscuring spatial genetic variation.

Why is it important?
A Google search using the search terms "mitochondrial DNA isolation by distance" returns >4 million matches, indicating that the results of a huge number of population genetic studies are questionable. The present study shows that a negative result does not mean that a species is completely admixed throughout its range. In species of conservation concern or exploited species, where the presence of IBD has important implications for management, past results need to be re-assessed using more sophisticated methods.

Jooste CM, Oliver J, Emami-Khoyi A, Teske PR (2018)
Is the Wild Coast in eastern South Africa a distinct marine bioregion? Helgoland Marine Research 72:6.

Student Projects/Positions:

We invite applications for the following research projects/positions. Interested South African or international students should please contact the laboratory at pteske101@gmail.com. 

Free-Standing Postdoctoral Positions/Career Advancement Fellowships

Emerging researchers wishing to get experience and improve their publication profile are invited to join the lab and suggest a research project of their choice, or contribute to ongoing projects. We are particularly interested in researchers who have experience with next-generation sequencing data analyses (or at least with unix-based bioinformatics). For details on deadlines and eligibility, please see https://nrfsubmission.nrf.ac.za.


South African or foreign researchers holding a PhD can apply for NRF Free-Standing Postdoctoral Fellowships (R150 000 + R10 000 for travel).

Career Advancement Fellowhips:

South Africans with a minimum of two years of postdoctoral experience can apply for funding via the NRF's Career Advancement Fellowship Programme (R350 000 per year + 100 000 for research). 

Got a gap year and want to get involved in some interesting research? In most cases, our interns get their own projects and are expected to publish at least one paper.