Natural history collections are essential to demonstrate and study the aspects of the changing biosphere. Botanical, zoological and anthropological collections reflect different aspects of the development of the biosphere, while palaeontological and geological collections shed light on the changes of the geosphere and biosphere in earth’s history.
The SNSB’s mineralogical research is devoted to phosphate minerals, among others. Phosphate is a strategically important raw material for plant nutrition. The mineral is found in nature only in a few isolated, mostly biologically formed deposits. One deposit in Bavaria is the so-called phosphate pegmatite of Hagendorf in the Upper Palatinate. It showes the highest diversity of phosphate minerals in the world.
Geo- and biosphere change through impacts using the example of the Nördlinger Riesl Nördlinger Ries
The Nördlinger Ries, an impact crater of an asteroid about one kilometer in size in the northern foothills of the Alps, is unique. Ries reseach is of supraregional importance as the planet Earth was formed by so-called impact processes.
Together with the LMU and other cooperation partners, SNSB scientists are investigating, how matter changed into “exotic” state forms under extreme thermomechanical conditions and whether exotic iron compounds still present in rocks today can be used to reconstruct the repercussions of impacts on the Earth’s magnetic field. They also want to answer the question of how the biosphere regenerates after an impact event and which life forms play a special role in this.
Biodiversity and diversity dynamics
The SNSB are striving for a detailed species inventory for the entire Bavarian flora and fauna. Such inventories create an indispensable data basis for all monitoring activities. The SNSB develops methods and the establishment of necessary infrastructure and the underlying taxonomy.
The SNSB research focuses on the Afrotropical fauna, the fauna of Southeast Asia and the fauna of the neotropical lowland rainforest, especially on the basis of the Panguana research station.
Another research focus is the molecular biodiversity of Indo-Pacific sponges and echinoderms, in particular the deep-water Crinoidea and the crown-of-thorns starfishes.
Questions of biodiversity and diversity dynamics of fossil communities are addressed at the SNSB with the help of the extensive palaeontological collections:
Paleontological research topics include structure and abiotic control of coral-dominated reef communities from the Upper Jurassic of the Franconian Alb, microorganisms and microbial interactions in the Lower Devonian fossil deposits Rhynie- and Windyfield-Cherts, as well as composite structures of the biominerals and biopolymers that make up skeletons, teeth and eyes of living and fossil organisms today.
Speciation processes and evolution
Processes of speciation and the resulting species complexes of terrestrial and aquatic animals are currently the subject of intensive research at the SNSB, especially in fish, amphibians and reptiles, but also in some insect and mollusc groups. The SNSB houses the largest butterfly collection in the world and the only large mollusc research collection with a marine focus in Germany, as well as the only Pycnogonida collection in Germany. In addition, integrative analyses of phylogeny and evolutionary history have been carried out for years within the framework of several third-party funded projects.
Processes of speciation and evolution in plants are studied in the genera Drosera (Droseraceae) and Utricularia (Lentibulariaceae). In the case of carnivorous plants, the aspect that they depend on insects both as prey and for reproduction (pollinator-versus-prey conflict) is also included. Topics of evolutionary research in palaeontology at the SNSB are e.g. the evolution of terrestrial vertebrate faunas in the middle Mesozoic (Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous), the importance of Europe as a biogeographical “hub” of terrestrial vertebrate faunas in the Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous, phylogenetic uncertainty and evolutionary processes in rapid radiates, the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi in the Lower Devonian Rhynie and Windyfield Cherts, studies on the origin and evolutionary history of apodid sea cucumbers, and processes and mechanisms of antler formation
The approximately 150-million-year-old southern German Plattenkalk fossil deposits (Solnhofen Archipelago; Wattendorfer and Nusplinger Plattenkalke) represent a period before the Alps existed and former habitats that lay on a vast, tropical to subtropical carbonate platform at the northern edge of the Jurassic Tethys Ocean. Future projects focus on faunas and floras of the various Plattenkalk troughs. This research work by the Bavarian State Collection of Palaeontology and Geology and the SNSB regional museums in Eichstätt and Bamberg also involves numerous international and national collaborations.
Life strategies in transition
With the scientific investigation of archaeological skeletal material of humans and animals, the two State Collections of Anthopology and Palaeoanatomy in Munich contribute to the elucidation of long-term processes and key events in prehistoric and early historic times. The focus is on cultural discontinuities and new beginnings.
Research is also conducted into bio-cultural responses to challenges in the past. The projects based here focus on the causes and consequences of drastic natural and cultural events with a view to the biological and cultural responses of humans.
Furthermore, with the help of diachronic, cross-cultural analyses of faunal remains, the SNSB is investigating the multifaceted and complex role of animals beyond their function as livestock, which ensured the everyday supply of food and secondary products such as wool and milk.