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Karl Niklas

Karl Niklas


208 Plant Science
(607) 255-8727

I am a plant evolutionist who uses physics, engineering, and mathematics to understand the relationship between plant form and function and how this relationship has evolved in consort with the physical environment over the course of Earth's history.

Research Focus

My focus is on plant evolution, particuarly how the shape, size, internal structure and reproductive biology of plants have changed over the course of millions of years of evolution.

Teaching Focus

I consider myself a teacher and a scientist. I love working with students, and I love doing research.

Awards and Honors

  • Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow (2012) Cornell University
  • Fellow (1995) Linnean Society of London
  • Named one of the best 300 professors in the USA (2012) Princeton Review
  • Centennial Medal (2006) Botanical Society of America
  • The Jeanette Siron Pelton Award (2002) BSA and the Conservation and Research Foundation

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Niklas, K. J., Bondos, S. E., Dunker, A. K., & Newman, S. A. (2015). Rethinking gene regulatory network theory in light of alternative splicing, intrinsically disordered protein domains, and post-translational modifications. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. 3:8.
  • Niklas, K. J. (2014). The evolutionary-developmental origins of multicellularity. American Journal of Botany. 101:177-183.
  • Niklas, K. J., & Spatz, H. C. (2004). Growth and hydraulic (not mechanical) constraints govern the scaling of tree height and mass. PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101:661-663.
  • Niklas, K. J., & Enquist, B. J. (2001). Invariant scaling relationships for interspecific plant biomass production rates and body size. PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 98:2922-2927.
  • Niklas, K. J. (2000). The evolution of plant body plans –– a biomechanical perspective. Annals of Botany. 85:411-438.
  • Niklas, K. J. (1994). Morphological evolution through complex domains of fitness. PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 91:6772-6779.

Book Chapters

  • Niklas, K. J., Tiffney, B. H., & Knoll, A. H. (1980). Apparent changes in the diversity of fossil plants: A preliminary assessment. p. 1-89 Evolutionary Biology M. Hecht, W. Steere, and B. Wallace (ed.), Plenum Publishing, New York.


  • Niklas, K. J. (2016). Plant Evolution: An Introduction to the History of Life. p. 560 University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
  • Niklas, K. J., & Hanns-Christof, S. (2012). Plant Physics. p. 448pp University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Niklas, K. J. (1997). The Evolutionary Biology of Plants. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.