1. Phylogeography and connectivity along African coastlines The roots of our lab lie in the field of phylogeography – understanding the distribution of genetic variation across landscapes (well, in our case, seascapes). This allowed us to begin to understand patterns of genetic structure of marine species in southern Africa, connectivity via gene flow, as well as historical and contemporary population dynamics. Over the years we have built up a strong background in this field, contributing large amounts of new data for our region.
Selected key papers:
Andreotti S, von der Heyden S, Henriques R, et al. (2016) Global mtDNA population structure of white sharks. Journal of Biogeography, 43: 328-339
von der Heyden S, Toms JA, Teske PR, et al. (2015) Contrasting signals of genetic diversity and historical demography between two recently diverged marine and estuarine fish species. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 526: 157-167
Teske PR, von der Heyden S, McQuaid CD, Barker NP (2011) A review of marine phylogeography in southern Africa. SouthAfrican Journal of Science 107, Art #514.
Neethling M, Matthee CA, Bowie RCK, von der Heyden S (2008) Evidence of successful dispersal across a major oceanographic barrier in the southern African endemic, Caffrogobius caffer (Teleostei: Gobiidae). BMC Evolutionary Biology 8: 325
2. Seascape genetics and genomics This is a natural extension of phylogeography, which allows us to understand not only the patterns of genetic variation across seascapes, but also the drivers. Here we use next-generation-sequencing approaches to identify both neutral SNPs and those under selection that can help us disentangle the relative contributions of neutral genetic versus local adaptation processes. By looking for correlates between structure, outlier SNPs and a variety of environmental variables, we can tease apart which factors influence signals of local adaptation in marine populations. This makes it possible to assess potential impacts of climate change on the evolutionary resilience of marine species.
Selected key papers:
Selkoe KA, D’Aloia CC, Crandall ED, Iacchei M, Liggins L, Puritz JB, von der Heyden S, Toonen RJ. (2016) A decade of seascape genetics: contributions to basic and applied marine connectivity. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 554: 1-19
Henriques R, von der Heyden S, Lipinksi MR, du Toit N, Kainge P, Bloomer P, Matthee CA. (2016) Spatio-temporal genetic structure and the effects of long-term fishing in two partially sympatric offshore demersal fishes. Molecular Ecology 25: 5843-5861
3. Conservation of genetic resources and marine spatial planning using genetic approaches Southern Africa is highly diverse in its oceanography and biodiversity, yet is also extremely threated by human-mediated changes. Therefore a major aim of our laboratory is to conserve the natural genetic diversity that exists in the region. Identifying populations with high amounts of standing genetic variation or those with potential adaptive capacity will help us understand which populations or regions may be more resilient to change, which impacts the conservation situations that we make.
Selected key papers:
Baco AR, Etter RJ, Ribeiro PA, von der Heyden S, Beerli P, Kinlan BP. (2016) A Synthesis of Genetic Connectivity in Deep-Sea Fauna and Implications for Marine Reserve Design. Molecular Ecology, 25: 3276-3298
Wright D, Bishop JM, Matthee CA, von der Heyden S. (2015) Genetic isolation by distance reveals restricted dispersal across a range of life-histories: implications for biodiversity conservation planning across highly variable marine environments. Diversity and Distributions, 21: 698-710
von der Heyden S, Beger M, Toonen RJ, van Herwerden L, Juinio-Meñez A, Ravago-Gotanco R, Fauvelot C, Bernardi G. (2014) The application of genetics to marine management and conservation: examples from the Indo-Pacific. Bulletin of Marine Science, 90: 123-158
von der Heyden S (2009) Why do we need to integrate population genetics into South African Marine Protected Area planning? African Journal of Marine Science 31: 263-269
4. Environmental DNA metabarcoding of marine environments This is the latest of our ventures and a project (funded through the Competitive Supports Programme for Rated Researchers) that started in 2017. Since then, we have set up a fully functioning eDNA lab, carried out six week field trips that took students along the entire coastline of South Africa and began the library prep using the MiFish DNA barcode primers. We expect to publish our first papers towards the beginning of next year, but will keep the projected updated through our News pages.
5. Contributing to the blue economy by unravelling stock dynamics of exploited species Working in Africa, brings with it a wealth of challenges, but more importantly, opportunities and partnerships. We work closely with government departments to integrate genetic tools into fisheries management. Our main projects have centered around the Cape hakes and we have over ten years experience in this field.
Selected key papers:
Henriques R, von der Heyden S, Matthee CA. (2016) When homoplasy mimics hybridization: a case study of Cape hakes (Merluccius paradoxusand M. capensis). PeerJ 4:e1827
von der Heyden S, Lipinski MR, Matthee CA. (2010) Remarkably low mtDNA control region diversity in an abundant demersal fish. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 55: 1183-1188
Teske PR, Forget FRG, Cowley PD, von der Heyden S, Beheregaray LB. (2010) Connectivity between marine reserves and exploited areas in the philopatric reef fish Chrysoblephus laticeps (Teleostei: Sparidae). Marine Biology, 157: 2029-2042
von der Heyden S, Groeneveld JC, Matthee CA (2007) ‘Long current to nowhere?' – genetic connectivity of Jasus tristani in the southern Atlantic Ocean. African Journal of Marine Science 29: 491-497
6. Other projects we have led over the years Over the years we have worked on numerous side projects such as seafood fraud and traceability, species taxonomy and systematics of marine species, host-parasite evolution and even new species descriptions. Go to our publications page for a full list of all our published work.