Of all the treasures housed in large museums of natural history, only a small fraction is shown to the public. Most of them are stored in the museums' large archives where they can be protected from ultraviolet light, heat and insects which might cause damage.

Each specimen with its associated data is labelled with a unique number in combination with the international acronym SMNS (for Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart).

Accessible to scientists from all over the world, as common property of science, type specimens in the museum are especially valuable. Type specimens are those unique specimens that have been used as reference for the description of new species, subspecies, genera or even families. The zoological collections at the SMNS are the basic material for the various aspects of biodiversity research. There exists a network of loans between natural history museums worldwide, that facilitates the exchange of valuable specimens among international experts. The current rate of extinction of species emphasises the importance of scientific collections as archives of biodiversity. The collecting data of the specimens represent an irreplaceable base to our knowledge on the former and current geographic distribution of different species.


Our zoological collections are global collections with a large proportion of historic material (collected prior to 1900). The most important historical collections are those of P. Bleeker (Indonesia), C. B. Klunzinger (Germany, Red Sea), A. Krämer (Pacific), Baron Ferdinand von Müller (Australia and New Zealand), Baron von Ludwig (Africa), August Kappler (South America) and Theodor von Heuglin (Africa). For more than 160 years, our holdings of recent vertebrates from throughout the world have been increased. With over 1,500 species for instance, the mammalogical collection covers nearly one third of all recent mammalian taxa and thus ranges among the 25 largest mammalogical collections worldwide. The ichthyological collection contains about 1,000 type specimens of roughly 450 nominal species. Collections of more than 50,000 cone shells (Conidae) and 200,000 door snails (Clausiliidae), amphibians of West Africa and bird eggs assembled worldwide have international significance.

Extent of Collections

The zoological collections contain more than 1,350,000 specimens of vertebrates and about a million invertebrates:



In general, institutes and private individuals can loan specimens for exhibits or scientific research. Type material can usually only be investigated visiting the museum. On request it is possible to obtain digital photographs. For further information and specific inquiries please contact the respective staff member.


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