Marine fish parasitology in South Africa: history of discovery and future direction

14 September 2016

Almost 200 years have passed since the first description of a marine fish parasite from South Africa. It is therefore an opportune time to look back, take stock of and reflect on the history of discovery within this field and, based on what we know, propose the future direction for research. The aim of this paper is hence to provide some background information on the growth in our knowledge and understanding of the major groups of marine fish parasites and to give an account of how pioneers, such as Barnard, Stebbing, Fantham and Kensley, led the age of discovery and exploration in marine fish parasitology in South Africa. The paper also presents a brief overview of the contributions made by internationally acclaimed parasitologists, such as Rodney Bray and Angela Davies, to our knowledge of marine fish parasites from this region and also to acknowledge the role played by the South African parasitologists, especially over the past 30 years. A rich base of fundamental knowledge is available in South Africa and this research field continues to grow. The prognosis for the future of marine parasitology in South Africa is good; however, as we continue to acquire and record new information about species, it is proposed that future research should be more focused on the lesser studied groups, such as monogeneans, protists and Myxozoa, as these have received uneven attention to date. In addition, it is proposed that the scope of research on marine fish parasitology be broadened to include ecological and applied aspects, using modern techniques