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Logotyp för Naturhistoriska riksmuseet

Stephen McLoughlin

Professor and Senior Curator


Professor Stephen McLoughlin is responsible for curating the Paleozoic and Mesozoic plant fossil collections in the department of Palaeobiology.

— I am interested in multiple aspects of the development of plant life on Earth and investigate the evolution of novel plant architectures, the application of fossil plants to biostratigraphy, patterns of plant extinction, and floristic responses to environmental change through the Paleozoic and Mesozoic. This broad interval spans many of the pivotal developments in plant life on Earth.

I employ novel techniques to examine exceptionally well-preserved (permineralized, opalized, or otherwise three-dimensionally preserved) fossils to elucidate the evolutionary history of lesser-studied groups, such as fungi, water moulds, primitive fern groups, and Southern Hemisphere seed plants.

— Another interest of mine is investigating the evolution of plant-animal interactions through the Paleozoic and Mesozoic. Integrated investigations of adpression floras, charcoalified mesofossil assemblages, and three-dimensionally entombed permineralized peat and sinter deposits offer broad scope for documenting the complex development of plant-animal-fungal interactions through deep time.

— I have particular interests in understanding the floristic turnovers through the Permian and Triassic—times during which Earth transitioned from icehouse to intense hothouse conditions and experienced perhaps its greatest mass-extinction event.

Tell us about your current research or other relevant tasks at the museum.

— I supervise visiting researchers, students, and postdoctoral fellows working on Paleozoic and Mesozoic palaeobotany. I am co-responsible for managing the department’s lapidary and photographic laboratories and maintaining the DiVA publications database.

— My current research involves investigations of the end-Guadalupian extinction event in relation to Southern Hemisphere floras, and the changes in guilds of plant-insect interactions associated with this event.

Research projects

My current project is entitled “Patterns of Floral Turnover and Plant-Insect Interactions Through the Guadalupian-Lopingian (Middle-Upper Permian) Biotic Crisis.” This project will resolve the patterns of extinction and recovery of plant groups and their arthropod herbivores across the Guadalupian-Lopingian (middle-upper Permian) boundary—one of the most neglected biotic crises in Earth's history.

Analyses of diagnostic feeding and egg-laying traces will enable tracking the patterns of plant utilization by terrestrial arthropods through this extinction event. The study will utilize novel X-ray and fluorescence microscopy techniques and globally unique fossil assemblages from polar to equatorial paleolatitudes to provide unparalleled insights into continental ecosystem changes through the critical interval leading up to the end-Permian mass extinction.

This project will chart the changes in key terrestrial arthropod feeding strategies and document how plants responded to insect attacks over evolutionary time scales. The results will elucidate the evolution of herbivory, parasitism, saprotrophy, detritivory, and plant defenses immediately prior to Earth’s greatest biotic crisis at the close of the Permian.

Other Professional Roles

· Chief Editor for Alcheringa (2006–2016); Honorary Editor (2016–present)

· Editorial board member for Cretaceous Research (1998–present)

· Editorial board member for Australasian Palaeontological Memoirs (2006–present)

· Editorial board member for Palaeontographica abteilung B (2013–present)

· Palaeobotany Section Editor for Australian Systematic Botany (2016–present)

· Member of the Nomenclature Committee for Fossil Plants under the auspices of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (2011–present)

Contact details

Stephen McLoughlin




Stephen McLoughlin is involved in the following projects:

Microscopic photo of the cells of fossil wood

Patterns of floral turnover and plant-insect interactions through the Guadalupian-Lopingian biotic crisis

Middle Permian glossopterid wood from East Antarctica with oribatid mite borings aligned along seasonal growth rings. Photo S. McLoughlin. Patterns of