Photo: Ethan Newman

© 2016 biological interactions

Former Member

Department of Botany and Zoology


biological interactions

Ethan Newman

Growing up in the Boland region of the Western Cape. I was fortunate to dedicate much of my time appreciating and observing natural history. Through these observations developed an immense passion for pollination biology. Early inspired by the work of South Africa’s pollination biology pioneers. To mention; Steve Johnson, Peter Goldblatt and John Manning. The study systems they developed serve as a treasure trove for investigating how interactions between plants and pollinators give rise speciation events. Throughout my postgraduate, I investigated the initial stages of pollinator driven speciation in those study systems. Using field experiments combined with natural history observations. I have studied patterns of local adaptation in pollination ecotypes of the mimetic orchid, Disa ferruginea as well as the Amaryllid, Nerine humilis.


My research interests lie in the microevolutionary processes that drive of floral diversity in the Cape. The enigmatic long proboscid flies of South Africa with tongues that often exceed twice the body of the flies, provide remarkable opportunities to study pollinator driven speciation at the microevolutionary scale. The distribution ranges of the flies are often patchy and plants that extend their distributions beyond the range of the flies, evolve adaptations to different pollinator’s as well functionally similar flies but with different proboscis lengths.  This provides opportunities to study patterns of local adaptation and pollinator mediated selection among plant populations with functionally different pollinators, enabling one to disentangle the processes that drive speciation at the initial stages of divergence.

Current Research

De Jager, M*., Newman, E*., Theron, G., Botha, P., Barton, M., and Anderson, B. 2016. Pollinators can prefer rewarding model flowers to mimics: consequences for the assumptions of Batesian floral mimicry. Plant Systematics and Evolution 302: 409-418.


Newman, E., J. C. Manning, and B. Anderson. 2015. Local adaptation: Mechanical fit between floral ecotypes of Nerine humilis (Amaryllidaceae) and pollinator communities. Evolution 69: 2262–2275.


Newman, E., J. C. Manning, and B. Anderson. 2014. Matching floral and pollinator traits through guild convergence and pollinator ecotype formation. Annals of Botany 113: 373 - 384.


Johnson, S. D., Newman, E., and B. Anderson. 2012. Preliminary observations of insect pollination in Protea punctata. South African Journal of Botany 83: 63-67.


Newman, E., Anderson, B., Johnson, S.D. 2012. Flower colour adaptation in a mimetic orchid. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 279: 2309 – 2313.



Non-peer Reviewed publications

Newman, E. Long tongue flies that pollinate Proteas. Veld and Flora. 99.