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State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart (SMNS)

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Collections & Expertise

The SMNS collections hold more than 11 million specimens and other natural objects as well as numerous associated data on taxonomy, genetics, ecology, and geography. Together these comprehensive records and archives of life on Earth and its history constitute a large-scale research infrastructure used by research scientists and the international community. Increasingly, collection information is made available digitally and in online data bases and contributes to international information systems and data portals.

The oldest parts of the collection date back to the 16th century, and were originally incorporated in the private ”Cabinet of Arts and Natural Curiosities” of the Dukes of Württemberg, which later gave rise to the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart. Today, the biological and palaeontological collections still have a strong regional focus as well as a worldwide dimension. The collection size is constantly growing due to project-related field work, special acquisitions and bequests.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Palaeontology Palaeontology has a long tradition at the museum, reaching back to the early days of fossil collecting in Germany. The museum houses one of the largest palaeontological collections in Europe, with regional emphasis (Triassic-Jurassic, Paleogene-Neogene) and important fossils related   to human evolution. However, it also includes a large body of specimens from   overseas (e.g., ammonites, insects, reptiles, mammals, and a rich amber   collection).Research covers all fields of palaeozoology   and palaeobotany, especially taxonomy, morphology, and phylogeny, functional morphology,   evolutionary biology, palaeoecology, and stratigraphy. Projects are performed   in collaborations with institutions worldwide.Research foci are the terrestrial and marine   Triassic ecosystems (Kupferzell, Trossingen), marine Jurassic deposits   (Holzmaden, Nusplingen), fossil insects, as well as Paleo- and Neogene ecosystems   (Ulm, Langenau, Randecker Maar, Steinheim, Höwenegg, marine and freshwater   Molasse, fissure fillings of the Swabian Alb).
Zoology Zoological research at SMNS deals with vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, fishes, birds, and mammals) and malacology   (snails and bivalves). It focuses on biodiversity including checklists and   Red Lists of endangered species, biogeography, ecological studies and   evolution. Identification and monitoring of fauna is performed in   Baden-Württemberg, other parts of Germany, Europe and overseas.The origin of the zoological collections is   strongly related to expeditions in former times. The historical collections   have a key function for the understanding of biosphere changes.Zoology owns one of the largest and most   important collections in the world, e.g., consisting of more than half of all   recent bird taxa and one-third of mammalian taxa.The scientists collaborate world wide for   selection and management of conservation areas, e.g., with Venezuela, Peru,   and Madagascar. The zoologists support government agencies and   non-governmental organisations by providing information on ecosystems and   species protection. They advise on diversity, behaviour, and interaction   between species and ecosystem as well as on conservation issues and threats.
Entomology Entomology deals with the largest part of all   organisms, comprising the more than 1 million insect and other arthropod   species known, and several million species still to be discovered.Entomological research at SMNS hence focuses   on the most species-rich insect groups, such as Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera   (flies), Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps), and Lepidoptera (butterflies   and moths), and also on aquatic insects (mayflies, stoneflies, and   dragonflies).Taxonomy, the classification of known and the   description of new species, constitutes a core field of research in   entomology. Projects include faunistic surveys, species catalogues, taxonomic   revisions, field guides, and monographs for groups and regions of particular   interest, for which the entomological collections present the essential research   base.Phylogeny, the reconstruction of the   evolutionary history of a group based on comparative studies of its member   taxa, is another research focus in entomology. Following the tradition   established by Willi Hennig at the museum in the 1960s, the current studies   rely both on comparative morphology and modern molecular methods.
Botany The botany department is the central institution for floristic mapping of Baden-Württemberg. A database of more than 1,000,000 sets consists of herbarium specimens and field records. It is   used for nature conservation measurements and biogeographic studies. With   these data, a research project on the impacts of climatic changes on the flora is performed in cooperation with government institutions. Distribution maps are available online.Botanical research embraces both taxonomic and systematic studies: a molecular study on island biogeography deals with the long-range dispersal and the colonisation of plant species. Other main projects are taxonomic and systematic revisions of plant groups and studies on the micorrhizae of liverworts in Central Europe and South America.The department houses a herbarium with   1,000,000 specimens, of which 680,000 are flowering plants and ferns, 140,000   mosses and liverworts, 85,000 lichens, 10,000 algae and 100,000 fungi. The   oldest specimens date back to the year 1743 and were collected during   Gmelin‘s Kamchatka expedition. The herbarium is the most important facility   for studies of the history of botany in Baden-Württemberg.
Library Comprehensive coverage, especially with regard to Palaeontology

Analytical Facilities

Important equipment including facilities for DNA extraction and analysis, state of the art microscopy and microprobe facilities are available. Laboratories for molecular investigations, fossils and amber preparation technologies, digital imaging and a scanning electron microscope are available.

For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Information Technology and Access

Users may bring their own laptop or access to an allocated laptop or PC will be provided upon request. Internet access can be arranged in all collection areas.

Research supported by the infrastructure

Biodiversity and phylogeny studies are integrative parts of the research programs of the SMNS.

SMNS staff and collaborators are important members of the leading German research group mapping biodiversity, both across the planet and back through time, searching for factors – biological, climatic, geographical or geological – that control and influence biotic diversity and loss. The SMNS is one of the six most important Natural History museums in Germany and is involved in a number of joint projects and associations within this community.

SMNS research framework:

  • Reconstructing fossil ecosystems
  • terrestrial and marine Triassic ecosystems (Kupferzell, Trossingen)
  • marine Jurassic deposits (Holzmaden, Nusplingen)
  • Paleo- and Neogene ecosystems: Ulm, Langenau, Randecker Maar, Steinheim, Höwenegg, marine and freshwater Molasse, fissure fillings of the Swabian Alb
  • ecophysiological signals of plant fossils
  • Phylogeny of arthropods
  • fossil insects
  • higher phylogeny of arthropods
  • Phylogeny and evolution of reptiles and amphibians
  • life history evolution in early amphibians
  • Integrative taxonomy and assessment of biodiversity
  • floristic mapping of Baden-Württemberg
  • molecular studies on island biogeography
  • micorrhizae of liverworts
  • German Barcoding of Life: Arachnids, parasitoid wasps, mosses
  • biodiversity and taxonomy of mayflies and stoneflies
  • biodiversity and taxonomy of spider wasps and chalcidoid wasps
  • biodiversity and taxonomy of Tachinid flies
  • biodiversity and taxonomy of Tenebrionid beetles
  • biodiversity, phylogeny, and ecology of Helicinid snails
  • biodiversity, phylogeny, and ecology of caecilians
  • biodiversity, phylogeny, and ecology of Madagascan birds
  • phylogeography of Sulawesi tarsiers