Contact (aquatic research): Prof. Peter Teske, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park 2006, Johannesburg, South Africa; Email:

This recently founded research group uses genetic tools to study aquatic animals, with a specific focus on the marine biogeography of southern Africa.  

                                                                                             Photo: Robert Harcourt

Student Projects/Positions:

We invite applications for the following research projects/positions. Interested South African or international students should please contact the laboratory at Bursary support is available for all projects.

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


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). 

Masters or PhD project: Adaptive divergence (aquaculture) - - from early 2015
Adaptive divergence in a coastal crab across the Atlantic/Indian Ocean biogeographic disjunction. This projects involves the rearing of crab larvae from South Africa's west coast under a range of temperatures, and recording their survival. These data will then be compared with previously generated data from a south coast population to determine whether the two evolutionary lineages of this species are adapted to different temperature regimes that characterise their respective habitats. The project can be upgraded to a PhD by rearing larvae from a third site (south-west coast) where both lineages occur in sympatry, and generating genetic data to distinguish them. Students should have experience in physiological work and/or aquaculture, and will be based in Durban for the duration of the laboratory work.

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. 

Latest Publications:

Teske PR, Bader S, Golla TR (in press)
Passive dispersal against an ocean current. Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Genetic methods have revelead that in marine region dominated by boundary currents, passive dispersal may often take place in the direction opposite to the boundary current. This suggests that wind-driven inshore currents play an important role in dispersing such species. We studied gene flow in a coastal limpet with direct development along the south-east coast of South Africa. Two major regional lineages were identified, and even though dispersal was primarily southward (from the northern lineage into the southern lineage), suggesting that the southward-flowing Agulhas Current is important in facilitating connectivity, there was also evidence for some northward dispersal. A detailed analysis of the single haplotype responsible for this finding suggested that its genetic assignment to the northern lineage was questionable, and a likely artefact of incomplete lineage sorting. A survey of the literature indicates that shared ancestral polymorphisms may have influenced inferences of dispersal against the Agulhas Current, and we suggest that not even significant genetic structure may be sufficient to obtain reliable gene flow estimates in such cases.

Teske PR, Sandoval-Castillo J, van Sebille E, Waters J, Beheregaray LB (2015)
On-shelf larval retention limits population connectivity in a coastal broadcast spawner. Marine Ecology Progress Series 531:1-12 Selected as "Feature Article" for the July 2015 edition

Boundary currents (such as the East Australian Current, the California Current and the Agulhas Current) are often considered to be the primary drivers of connectivity among populations of coastal species. Using a combination of microsatellite data and oceanographic modelling, we show that boundary currents in temperate southern Australia are not particularly important in maintaining connectivity in the coastal snail Nerita atramentosa, a species whose larvae remain in the plankton for several months. Few of the species' larvae ever reach the region's boundary currents, and those that do will not return to the coast in time to complete development. As a result, the species' genetic structure follows a pattern of "isolation by geographic distance", suggesting that most planktonic larvae settle close to their parent habitat.

Teske PR, Sandoval-Castillo J, Waters J, Beheregaray LB (2014)
Can novel genetic analyses help to identify low-dispersal marine invasive species? Ecology and Evolution 4:2848-2866.
The genetic study of introduced species is presently dominated by analyses that identify signature of recent colonisation by means of summary statistics. Unfortunately, such approaches cannot be used in low-dispersal species, in which recently established populations originating from elsewhere in the species' native range also experience periods of low population size because they are founded by few individuals. We tested whether coalescent-based molecular analyses that provide detailed information about demographic history support the hypothesis that a sea squirt whose distribution is centered on Tasmaniaq was recently introduced to mainland Australia and New Zealand. Methods comparing trends in population size were no more informative than summary statistics, likely because of recent intra-Tasmanian dispersal. However, estimates of divergence between putatively native and introduced populations provided information at a temporal scale suitable to differentiate between recent introductions and ancient divergence, and confirmed that all three non-Tasmanian populations were founded during the period of European settlement.

Teske PR, Sandoval-Castillo J, Sasaki M, Beheregaray LB (2015)
Invasion success of a habitat-forming marine invertebrate is limited by lower-than-expected dispersal ability. Marine Ecology Progress Series 536:221-227.
Even though ascidians can readily reach far away locations by attaching themselves to the hulls of ships, what happens in the invaded marine communities depends strongly on habitat availability. We used polymorphic microsatellites to study an invasive population of the ascidian Pyura doppelgangera in Adelaide (South Australia). This species has considerable potential to destroy native communities by overgrowing them. Adelaide's coastline is essentially a sandy beach, and P. doppelgangera is only present on artificial structures. Unlike in northern New Zealand (where rocky shore habitat is continuous), physical removal can potentially eliminate this species before it can spread to other sites in South Australia. This study suggests that solitary ascidians' 1-day larval dispersal phase cannot facilitate long-distance dispersal, and that conclusions to the contrary may be the result of incomplete lineage sorting of more slowly mutating DNA sequence data.

Teske PR, Papadopoulos I, Barker NP, McQuaid CD (2013)
Disperal barriers and stochastic reproductive success do not explain small-scale genetic structure in a broadcast-dispersing mussel. Marine Ecology Progress Series 482: 133-140.
Females of the marine mussel Perna perna are genetically structured between bays and the open coast, but we found no strong support for two commonly invoked pre-settlement factors that could explain small-scale genetic structure within coastal regions. Genetic heterogeneity could not be explained by nearshore circulation resulting in asymmetrical dispersal, nor did we find evidence for temporal changes in population structure resulting from chance mating success. While we cannot presently explain the mechanism that has driven genetic structure in female P. perna, our study points to a role for species- and gender-specific adaptive constraints in driving genetic structure. 

Teske PR, Zardi GI, McQuaid CD, Nicastro K (2013)
Two sides of the same coin: extinctions and originations across the Atlantic/Indian Ocean boundary as a consequence of the same climate oscillation. Frontiers of Biogeography 5: 48-59.
We discuss a model of range extension followed by divergence, in which the same climate oscillations that resulted in the extinction of coastal species in south-western Africa also sowed the seeds of new biodiversity.