|In November and December 2002 I visited Venezuela with one main goal: to collect a large series of the only known spider (at that time) with asymmetric male genitalia: Metagonia mariguitarensis. Of course this was not the only aim. Venezuela contains the type localities of many spiders that Eugène Simon described after visiting the country in 1887-1888. Some of his species had only been known from the type material, often just one or a few specimens. Visiting some of the very same localities as Simon was thus a major goal. This brought us for example to the lovely but somewhat surreal Colonia Tovar. This 19th century-style German town, surrounded by tropical montane rainforest, is well known to readers of Isabel Allende. We found virtually all of Simon's pholcid spider species.
Another few days were spent collecting at Rancho Grande and in Henri Pittier National Park. This is where William Beebe collected tons of data and material in the 1940ies, visiting the site with half a ton of equipment. Our strategy was to be quick and flexible and to visit as many sites as possible. The most important equipment: a bottle of ethanol and lots of vials.
The trip down to Sabana Grande should bring us to the type locality of Kaliana (now Mesabolivar) yuruani. This is among the pholcid spiders wiith the most unusual and extravagant male reproductive organs, but only a single male had been known, deposited in the American Museum in New York. These tiny spiders (about 2 mm body length) live very cryptically in the leaf-litter but we managed to find some males and females.
A flight to Canaima and a boat trip from there to Salto Angel brought us as close to the tepuis as was possible. I had always been fascinated by this incredible geological formations and had hoped to find quite a number of pholcid species in the untouched rainforests at Auyan-Tepui. To my surprise, there was only one new species of Mesabolivar (in the meantime described as M. macushi). Otherwise, the gorgous forest appeared quite devoid of spiders. In comparison, we found about 40 pholcid species alltogether during our 4-weeks-trip, about 20 of them new to science.
The map below shows the localities we visited. Most of the time we were just two: Boris Striffler and me. Only in Yacambu we were a group of five, including Osvaldo Villarreal and Abel Pérez González, to both of whom I owe much for arranging the permits. This expedition was financed in part by the German Research Foundation (DFG), project HU 980/1-1.
Numerous publications have resulted from this trip or have profited from material collected at this trip (Huber 2004, Huber, Perez & Baptista 2005, Huber 2005, Astrin et al. 2006, Huber 2006, Bruvo et al. 2005, Astrin et al. 2007, Huber & Arias 2017, Huber 2018, Huber & Carvalho 2019, Huber & Villarreal 2020).