Cameroon 2009
 
frog Previous expeditions by Charles Griswold and colleagues have shown that Cameroon is home to a great diversity of spiders, including many undescribed pholcids. Unfortunately, many species from previous collections are represented by one or a few specimens only, and no material has been available that is suitable for DNA sequencing. In April 2009 I visited Cameroon together with my daughter Janina, and we travelled about 3000 km covering parts of the Central, Littoral, South, Northwestern and Western Regions.

With over 700 adult specimens representing 33 species this was one of my most successful expeditions so far. We collected 22 new species, most of them belonging to the genera Smeringopina and Pholcus. In places like the lowland rainforest near Kribi below (left) and the montane forest near Mbouda (right), pholcids are just everywhere and few other macroscopic animals seem to have similar abundances.
kribibamboutos
One central aim of the entire expedition was the collection of fresh material of the genus Pholcus, which was the topic of a worldwide revision (in the meantime publised; see Huber 2011). Interestingly, Pholcus species in Cameroon are found in a variety of habitats, and the morphology of each species nicely reflects its preferred microhabitat. The species below on the left (Pholcus bamboutos) is at rest pressed against the bark of trees or against rocks; it is rather large and dark. The species on the right (top; Pholcus kribi) lives under dead leaves on the ground; it is tiny and also dark. The third species shown here (Pholcus debilis) lives on the underside of green (alive) leaves; it is pale yellow to greenish. Thus, while pholcids are ubiquitous, they are usually well camouflaged and it requires a close look to find them.
  pholcus
janinaSeveral people contributed substantially to the success of this trip: Philippe Le Gall, Research Scientist at the IRD in Yaounde, who was of tremendous help with bureauratic and logistic problems and who passionately shared his huge knowledge about Africa and African arthropods in particular; Roger Kamga, our driver and guide, who always knew the best spots and savely brought us there and back again; and my daughter, who preferred the beach at Kribi but who also developed a good eye for tiny leaf-dwelling pholcids. Thanks is also due the German Research Foundation for financing this expedition (Project HU 980/9-1).