|In May and June 2015 I visited
the most northern part of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest
together with Leonardo Souza Carvalho, completing a
mega-transect that had started in 2003. During the seven trips I
visited a total of about 50 localities ranging from Rio Grande do Sul
to Rio Grande do Norte. This is about 3500 km straight line but in fact
I probably covered some 20000 km on the ground.
The final analysis of the complete data will take a while; for a very preliminary summary, see here. This page is just a brief account of this last trip. For summaries of previous trips, see here.
As expected, finding good forests was a major problem. Most of the forests in this region of Brazil have long ago been replaced by sugercane and other crops, and towards the interior it rapidly gets dry, leaving only a few rather small patches along the Atlantic coast.
Surprisingly, though, we found quite a large number of species, including a high percentage of new ones. As it seems now, about 23 of the 36 species we collected are new to science. The uncertainty is due to some mytserious species described long ago, e.g. Litoporus agricola Mello-Leitão, 1922 and Psilochorus sectus Mello-Leitão, 1939 from Campina Grande. We collected around Campina Grande and found a small species that roughly fits both of Mello-Leitão's poor descriptions but does not fit in one distinctive detail each. Another of our 'new' species might in fact be Psilochorus taperae Mello-Leitão, 1929, but since the types are lost (as in the other two species mentioed before), this will be hard to verify.
Most of my collecting effort over the last 20 years has concentrated on tropical forests. Like in most groups of organisms, dry regions are of course much poorer as far as pholcid species diversity is concerned. However, the few species that do occur in such regions are often especially interesting. In the very dry Lajedo do Arapoá in Rio Grande do Norte (above) we found an extremely rare species, Kambiwa neotropica (below), under small pebbles directly in the sun. To my knowledge, no specimen other than the six type specimens exists in collections worldwide.
The last days we spent searching for cave-dwelling Metagonia and Micropholcus in western Rio Grande do Norte. Gruta do Crotes (below) was my favorite, but we found the spiders in almost any cave we visited.
This expedition was funded by the Brazilian Government (CAPES/CNPq) through a project submitted by Adalberto José dos Santos. I am most grateful to Adalberto for inviting me to participate in this expedition, and to Leonardo Souza Carvalho for his preparations of the trip and for being a great companion in the field.