Niklas Wahlberg

Niklas Wahlberg

Professor, directly appointed

Personal profile


Research interests

My main research interests lie with the evolutionary history of a megadiverse clade, Lepidoptera. I am interested in when, where and how various clades diversified. I use mainly molecular systematic methods in my work and am beginning to use Next Gen sequencing technologies. I am particularly interested in developing laboratory protocols to utilize museum specimens in my work, as often many crucial taxa are very difficult to find and collect, while such taxa are well represented in museum collections that have been amassed over the past couple of centuries.

My group is beginning to elucidate the reasons behind the evolutionary success of Lepidoptera. It appears that the clade originated in the Cretaceous and that many groups diversified in conjunction with the diversification of angiospermous plants. One particularly interesting pattern we have uncovered is that it appears that most families of Lepidoptera have originated in the late Cretaceous, but have diversified very strongly after the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous. Simplified, it looks like the ancestors of what we call families today barely survived the mass extinction event (hypothesized to have been caused by a massive asteroid hitting the Earth) 65 million years ago. Those lineages which survived apparently discovered a wide variety of niches available leading to massive diversification in many lineages, such as Geometridae, Erebidae, and Pyralidae among others. These questions we continue to address in our research today.

Short biography

I am originally from Finland, although I spent my childhood living in places like Nigeria, Sudan, Ghana, USA, Western Samoa and Papua New Guinea. I obtained my PhD at the University of Helsinki in 2000 on the evolutionary biology of checkerspot butterflies. I continued working on the evolutionary biology of butterflies during a 2 year postdoc with Sören Nylin at Stockholm University. During that time, my focus moved more and more towards the molecular phylogenetics of the butterfly family Nymphalidae and in 2002 I received a 4 year forskarassistent position from Vetenskapsrådet, which I carried out at Stockholm University. Following this, I was awarded an Academy Research Fellowship from the Academy of Finland for 2006-2011, which took place at the University of Turku, Finland. I expanded my research to look at the evolutionary history of Lepidoptera as a whole at this point. For 2011-2013 I was employed as a University Researcher at the University of Turku, and was promoted to Professor in Genetics in 2014. Starting in September 2015 I am Professor in Biological Systematics at Lund University.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

UKÄ subject classification

  • Biological Systematics
  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • Lepidoptera
  • phylogenetics
  • diversification


Dive into the research topics where Niklas Wahlberg is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or