Prof Paul Skelton

Prof. Paul Skelton
Prof. Paul Skelton

Research Interests:

Systematics and biogeography of African freshwater fishes

Position: Honorary Research Associate; Emeritus Managing Director: South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity

Prof. Paul Skelton retired from his position as Managing Director of SAIAB in 2011, a position he had held for over 16 years since April 1995, in order to give some attention to systematic ichthyology, in particular, the need to describe a number of species that have been discovered through ‘barcoding’ and other molecular studies as part of a general revision of the freshwater fishes of southern Africa.

His research interests on African freshwater fishes may be traced over a 40-year span in several distinct phases, starting with 12 years at the Albany Museum where he completed his PhD on the systematics of the redfin minnows (Genus Pseudobarbus), and also initiated studies on Zambezian fishes that continues actively at present.

Other life-long interests stem from his Albany Museum days: firstly a deep passion for historical ichthyology, the biogeography of southern African freshwater fishes, and the conservation of freshwater fishes.

In 1984, Prof. Skelton moved to the JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology and spent the next 12 years focused on four areas: firstly, the fishes of the Okavango system; secondly, studies on Amphiliid catfishes; thirdly, on a regional (southern African) synthesis, and fourthly, on the conservation status of the freshwater fishes of South Africa. As Managing Director his research took a back seat but he was able to continue with taxonomy and with studies on Amphiliid catfishes in particular, and through students and other colleagues and collaborators, developed an interest in karyology and molecular barcoding as a means to identify species.

His experience over many years as a Curator and through visiting leading collection institutions internationally, has allowed him to make valuable contributions to wet collection development in Africa. In particular, he directed the development of the new collection facility at SAIAB.

Prof. Skelton’s current focus is on a revision of his book, A Complete Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of southern Africa’. He is also closely associated with the Wild Bird Trust National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project and the fishes of Angola. He is busy with several systematic studies in collaboration with Dr Albert Chakona (SAIAB), Dr Emmanuel Vreven (MRAC) and other colleagues, including Dr Pedro Braganza, Roger Bills, and Denis Tweddle. These studies include species of tetraploid and diploid smiliogastrines, clariids, mormyrids and other African freshwater fish families.






Rhodes University, Makhanda


BSc. (Hons)(Zoology)

Rhodes University, Makhanda


PhD. (Ichthyology)

Rhodes University, Makhanda