Canberra Skeptics lecture: Sex, Lies and Nectar: Evolutionary Biology as Written by Flowers

Speaker: Dr Michael Whitehead
Date: Monday, 13 April 2015
Time: 6:00-7:30pm
Location: Ainslie Football Club, 52 Wakefield Ave, Ainslie ACT 2602

Free Admission

In the eyes of evolution, finding a suitable mate for reproduction is one of the most critical stages in any organism’s life. The great majority of flowering plants have outsourced this essential service to animals, giving rise to a fascinating evolutionary dance between plants and pollinators.

Charles Darwin was the first to recognize that flowers were superb teachers of evolution. I will touch on his classic work and explain what we have since learned about remarkable flowers who smell like dung and death, flowers who attract insects with the false promise of sex and a fly with a ridiculously long tongue.

These and other awesome examples of floral evolution would surely have thrilled Darwin, and may even solve his “abominable mystery”: the rapid rise of the spectacular diversity of flowering plants.

Michael was awarded his PhD in 2012 from the Australian National University for a study on pollination in east Australian sexually deceptive orchids. He has conducted postdoctoral research with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa on specialist plant-pollinator interactions. He is currently a research fellow with the Australian National University and Kings Park Botanic Garden, investigating the specialist plant-fungi interactions of Western Australia’s remarkable orchids. Michael is also a keen natural history photographer.

Dinner will follow the lecture in the Ainslie Football Club restaurant. To RSVP for the dinner please email

Canberra Skeptics Inc. is a non-profit association incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory for the purpose of promoting critical thinking. For further information about Canberra Skeptics, please visit our website: