The taxonomy of many polychaete species recorded in South Africa is problematic. These problems are a consequence of high interspecific similarity in morphology within cryptic species complexes and overestimation of distribution ranges as historical errors in identifications of pseudo-cosmopolitan species are perpetuated.
Resolution of such taxonomic problems will make a significant contribution to our understanding of true levels of local polychaete diversity and evolutionary relationships among species while also improving management of non-indigenous species.
Ongoing projects in the Simon Polychaete lab include
- Resolving the identifications of non-indigenous and pseudo-cosmopolitan species, including some that are pests on farmed oysters.
- Resolving the identification of polychaetes that are widely used as bait.
- Developing a list of species to prioritise for taxonomic revisions.
- Investigating the reproductive biology and ecology of non-indigenous species.
These studies use morphological and genetic techniques and are conducted in collaboration with international researchers at Hofstra University (USA), Tohoku University & Iwate University (Japan), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Balearic Islands (Spain) and University of Portsmouth (UK), and local researchers at Stellenbosch University, SANParks (Garden Route National Park), Knysna Basin Project and Rhodes University.