|In March 2023 I
visited Chile with one main objective: to find Aucana spiders, one of the few
genera missing in the molecular phylogeny of the family. When Norman
Platnick handed over to me these tiny Chilean pholcids in 1998, we
thought they were representatives of Ninetinae. I described the genus
and several species but their position within the family has remained
dubious. Certain aspects of their morphology suggested they might be
miniaturized Arteminae rather than Ninetinae but without fresh material
and molecular data the problem appeared difficult to solve.
I found Aucana at numerous localities, always near the coast. Aucana seems to be a relict that is trapped between the Pacific and the Andes, between the Atacama desert in the north and the cold south. Below are photos of four species.
In addition, I found some surprises too. For example, Metagonia has apparently never been found in Chile, even though numerous expeditions and experienced collectors have visited Chile. I found two new species of Metagonia (below, upper row), both apparently closely related to the Argentinean M. strinatii. Some spiders apparently represent new genera, such as the three species shown below, lower row.