Photo: Genevieve Theron

© 2016 biological interactions

PhD student with B Anderson

Department of Botany and Zoology


biological interactions

Genevieve L. Theron

Growing up in a small town, ideally situated between the sea and the mountains, it wasn’t difficult to fall in love with the outdoors. A passion for ecology and botanising however, only came later, after being inspired by various lecturers and post graduate students during my undergrad studies at Stellenbosch University. I quickly realised that pollination biology is where my heart lies and thus proceeded to complete my honours on the differences in mating system and corresponding size variation in Babiana ringens. Thereafter I spent the year as an NRF intern in this lab, where I learnt invaluable skills from my fellow postgrad students and was also inspired to further my studies in the process. For my MSc I chose to shift my focus slightly towards the evolution of attraction cues and the pollinators shifts associated with them, in a Southern African genus. This work has been great for many reasons but mainly for taking me all over the Greater Cape Floristic Region, to see new places and things.


I am currently looking at the evolutionary relationships within the Southern African genus Ferraria and how this corresponds to shifts in pollinators, scent and colour. Ferraria presents a promising study system as it is a small group of closely related species that have decidedly different pollinators and attraction cues. This makes it ideal for exploring the evolution and diversification of the relationship between pollinators, colour and scent. The substantial variation in attraction cues, within and between species, has subsequently led to the evolution of four distinct pollination syndromes within this one small genus. Different members of this genus are known to be pollinated by either bees, wasps, carrion flies or beetles. I will be constructing a molecular phylogeny for all of the species which occur within South Africa and plot species traits alongside in order to be able to make conclusions about these traits as species diverged. I will also be using the constructed phylogeny to create reciprocal translocation experiments across multiple hierarchical levels. By performing these translocations I hope to determine where in the process of diversification selection imposed upon plants, by pollinators, becomes important in this system.

Current Research

de Jager, M., Newman, E., Theron, G., Botha, P., Barton, M. & Anderson, B. (2016) Pollinators can prefer rewarding models to mimics: consequences for the assumptions of Batesian floral mimicry. Plant Systematics and Evolution. DOI 10.1007/s00606-015-1276-0