Marine Nematode Taxonomy in Africa: Promising Prospects Against Scarcity of Information

Fehmi Boufahja, Federica Semprucci, Hamouda Beyrem, Punyasloke Bhadury

Abstract


From the late 19th century, Africa has faced heavy exploitation of its natural resources with increasing land/water
pollution, and several described species have already become extinct or close to extinction. This could also be the case for marine nematodes, which are the most abundant and diverse benthic group in marine sediments, and play major roles in ecosystem functioning. Compared to Europe and North America, only a handful of investigations on marine nematodes have been conducted to date in Africa. This is due to the scarcity of experienced taxonomists, absence of identification guides, as well as local appropriate infrastructures. A pivotal project has started recently between nematologists from Africa (Tunisia), India, and Europe (Italy) to promote taxonomic study and biodiversity estimation of marine nematodes in the African continent. To do this, as a first step, collection of permanent slides of marine nematodes (235 nominal species and 14 new to science but not yet described) was recently established at the Faculty of Sciences of Bizerte (Tunisia). Capacity building of next generation of African taxonomists have been carried out at level of both traditional and molecular taxonomy (DNA barcoding and next-generation sequencing [NGS]), but they need to be implemented. Indeed, the integration of these two approaches appears crucial to overcome lack of information on the taxonomy, ecology, and biodiversity of marine nematodes from African coastal waters.

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