Venezuela 2002
 
In November and December 2002 I visited Venezuela with one main goal: to collect a large series of the only known spider with asymmetric male genitalia: Metagonia mariguitarensis. Of course this was not the only aim. Venezuela contains the type localities of many spiders that Eugene Simon described after visiting the country in 1887-1888. Some of these species are only 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 issue. This brought us for example to the lovely but somewhat surreal Colonia Tovar. This 19th century-stile German town, surrounded by tropical montane rainforest, is well known to Isabel Allende readers. 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 fourties, visiting the site with half a ton of equipment. Our strategy was to be 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 yuruani. This is the pholcid spider with the most unusual and extravagant male reproductive organs, but only a single male had been known, deposited at 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. 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 Villareal and Abel Pérez González, to both of whom I owe much for arranging the permits. This expedition was financed in part by the German Science Foundation (DFG).
So far, four publications have resulted  from this trip (Huber 2004, Huber, Perez & Baptista 2005, Huber, in press a, in press b), several more are in preparation.