Niklas Wahlberg

Professor, Directly Appointed, PhD

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Biological Systematics
  • Evolutionary Biology


  • Lepidoptera, phylogenetics, diversification


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.

Recent research outputs

Lijun Ma, Yuan Zhang, David J. Lohman, Niklas Wahlberg, Fangzhou Ma, Soren Nylin, Niklas Janz, Masaya Yago, Kwaku Aduse-Poku, Djunijanti Peggie, Min Wang, Peng Zhang & Houshuai Wang, 2020 May 25, In : Systematic Entomology.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Alena Sucháčková Bartoňová, Martin Konvička, Jana Marešová, Zdravko Kolev, Niklas Wahlberg & Zdeněk Faltýnek Fric, 2020 Mar 30, In : Conservation Genetics. 21, p. 561–575 15 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Martin Wiemers, Nicolas Chazot, Christopher W. Wheat, Oliver Schweiger & Niklas Wahlberg, 2020, In : ZooKeys. 2020, 938, p. 97-124 28 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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