Dr Benedikt Kuhnhäuser

Future Leader Fellow


Trait Diversity and Function


Character Evolution


Phylogenomics, molecular dating, biogeography, DNA barcoding, extinction risk prediction, palms, rattan.

I am a biologist and data scientist devoted to the study of the evolution, authentication, and conservation of plants. My work entails building comprehensive DNA reference datasets that include hundreds of genes for hundreds of plant species.

On this basis, I employ cutting-edge genomic and big data analysis methods to investigate the evolutionary history of plants and develop novel tools for their identification and extinction risk prediction.

My current work largely focusses on rattan palms (subfamily Calamoideae). My research interests include both fundamental evolutionary questions and real-world challenges:

  • Evolution of palms – using phylogenomic methods based on hundreds of genes to understand how all 555 species in the palm subfamily Calamoideae are related to each other. This research forms the baseline for most of my other research activities.
  • Biogeography of Asian rainforests – investigating how and when tropical rainforests attained their exceptional diversity across the geographically complex and poorly understood Asia-Pacific region, using the calamoid palms as a model group.
  • DNA barcoding of furniture – developing new tools to reveal the species identity of rattan cane furniture using genomic information extracted from its wood. Rattan furniture is a billion-dollar industry but currently no tools for species authentication exist, making supply chain traceability difficult.
  • Extinction risk prediction using machine learning – estimating the extinction risk of all rattan palms based on thousands of occurrence records using machine learning. Hundreds of rattan palm species are likely commercially used, but the extinction risk of only a handful has been formally assessed so far. This information will enable rattan businesses to improve the sustainability of their activities.


  • D.Phil. Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, UK. Thesis: “Phylogenomics and biogeography of the calamoid palms” (2022)
  • M.Sc. Botany, University of Vienna, Austria (2017)
  • B.Sc. Horticulture, Weihenstephan University, Germany (2014)


Member, IUCN SSC Palm Specialist Group (2018)


  • Senior Hulme Scholarship by Brasenose College, Oxford, UK (2022 – 2022)
  • Senior Germaine Scholarship by Brasenose College, Oxford, UK (2017 – 2022)
  • Clarendon Scholarship, Oxford, UK (2017 – 2022)
  • Pro Scientia Scholarship, Austria (2016 – 2017)
  • German National Academic Foundation Scholarship (2011 – 2017)


  • 3rd prize for oral presentation at the Young Systematists’ Forum of the Systematics Association, UK (2019)
  • Merit-based scholarship award (best biology student out of 92 applicants), University of Vienna (2016)
  • Best Bachelor's degree of the year at university level, Weihenstephan University (2015)

Kuhnhäuser, B.Get al. (2021).

A robust phylogenomic framework for the calamoid palms.

Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 157: 107067.

Torres Jiménez, M.F., Prata, E.M.B., Zizka, A., Cohn-Haft, M., de Oliveira, A.V.G., Emilio, T., Chazot, N., Couvreur, T.L.P., Mogue Kamga, S., Sonké, B., Cano, Á., Collevatti, R.G., Kuhnhäuser, B.G. et al. (2021).

Phylogenomics of the palm tribe Lepidocaryeae (Calamoideae: Arecaceae) and description of a new species of Mauritiella.

Systematic Botany 46: 863-874.

Cowell, C., Paton, A., Borrell, J.S., Williams, C., Wilkin, P., Antonelli, A., Baker, W.J., Buggs, R., Fay, M.F., Gargiulo, R., Grace, O.M., Kuhnhäuser, B.G., Woudstra, Y. & Kersey, P.J. (2021).

Uses and benefits of digital sequence information from plant genetic resources: lessons learnt from botanical collections.

Plants, People, Planet 11.

Pérez-Escobar, O., Bellot, S., Przelomska, N.A.S., Flowers, J.M., Nesbitt, M., Ryan, P., Gutaker, R.M., Gros-Balthazard, M., Wells, T., Kuhnhäuser, B.G. et al. (2021).

Molecular clocks and archaeogenomics of a Late Period Egyptian date palm leaf reveal introgression from wild relatives and add timestamps on the domestication.

Molecular Biology and Evolution 38: 4475-4492.

Petoe, P.*, Kuhnhäuser, B.G.*, Geri, C. & Baker, W.J. (2020).

Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary – a palm hotspot in the heart of Borneo.

Palms 64: 57-84.

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Benedikt Kuhnhaeuser

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Benedikt Kuhnhaeuser


Benedikt Kuhnhaeuser