State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart

The aim of SMNS research is to comprehensively understand changes in biodiversity at all levels – from genetic diversity to the diversity of species and communities to the level of ecosystems – over geological timescales. SMNS investigates how the diversity of organisms, species communities and interactions has developed in the course of evolution, discerning patterns of change over time and which biotic and abiotic environmental drivers are responsible for this. The SMNS investigates both evolutionary and anthropogenic influences on biodiversity across different temporal and spatial scales.

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Our expertise encompasses a wide variety of organisms, from charismatic Indonesian tarsiers under threat of extinction to thermophilic neophytes that have spread rapidly and conquered new habitats in the past decades in response to rising temperatures. From giant fossil marine reptiles that were dreaded top predators of the Jurassic Sea to millimeter-sized parasitoid wasps that lay their eggs in other insect larvae, preventing agricultural pests. With more than 12 million specimens in our collection and cutting-edge facilities, we investigate this diversity to unravel the uniqueness of each specimen. It is the fascinating stories behind each specimen that we convey not only in scientific articles but also to our visitors in the exhibition. Be it the first evidence of cancer from 240 million years ago, the predation among giant marine reptiles, as evidenced by bite marks or how the evolution of mouthparts contributed to the diversity we see in some hyperdiverse insect groups.
Through close collaborations, such as with the particle accelerator at KIT, we are able to use synchrotron radiation to create three-dimensional models of insects trapped in amber millions of years ago or visualize the behavior of live parasitoid wasps moving in their host.
We regularly carry out expeditions and paleontological excavations. Both in the vicinity, where many world-famous fossil deposits are easily accessible and also worldwide, with many highly important findings. They range from small, such as the oldest fossil hummingbird to the probably heaviest animal that ever lived on earth: Perucetus colossus. Our scientists describe new species from the meadows and forests in the area where most people would not expect to find the unknown. But also from remote areas such as cave systems across Europe, tropical rainforests or the islands of New Caledonia. We do this together with institutions and researchers from the area and maintain close collaborations that allow for capacity building and vice versa knowledge exchange on an eye level. We are active members in several networks, through which we are able to join forces with other natural history museums, universities and research institutions of all kinds to conduct large-scale projects, such as the German Barcode of Life.