University of Cape Town

Nicola Illing


Cape Town, South Africa

I apply the tools of modern genetics to unravel the answers to interesting evolutionary biology questions, using examples from the rich biological landscape of southern Africa. Genetic analysis of organisms that are currently alive can be used to delve into the past, for instance, understanding how flight evolved in bats 50 million years ago. We have built up the resources for doing development and genetic studies on the Natal long-finger bat, Miniopterus natalensis, including staging bat embryos, having access to a large colony of bats for the collection of embryos, and protocols for studying the expression of genes during development and in bat cell lines. My other major research interest is to use functional genetics to understand how desiccation tolerance evolved in resurrection plants; with a specific focus on deciphering the transcriptional regulatory networks that lead to expression of seed genes in the leaves of the monocot, Xerophyta humilis.


  • doi: 10.1093/nar/gkw916
  • doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.67

Nicola Illing's public data