|In 1985, John
Murphy visited Guanacaste in Costa Rica and there he collected a tiny
but spectacular spider that he tentatively identified as "Pholcophora?". When I received his
collection in loan two decades later, I was amazed to see a
representative of Ninetinae from Costa Rica; no Ninetinae has ever been
described from anywhere from Panama to Guatemala, and to my knowledge,
nobody has collected any Ninetinae in this huge region before and after
John Murphy. The spider reminded me of Galapa, a genus that was at
that time thought to be endemic to Galapagos (in the meantime we
described a species from Venezuela).
Other projects and Corona delayed my plans to get fresh material of
this interesting spider, but in May 2022 I finally had the opportunity
to visit Guanacaste and to search for it.
Surprisingly, Murphy's label says "riverine forest". A riverine forest is not the habitat to search for Ninetinae, which are usually found in dry to very dry habitats. Nevertheless, I trusted the label and started my search in some beautiful riverine forests such as those shown below.
What I found in the litter of these riverine forests were lots of small pholcids, representatives of the genera Anopsicus (left photo above) and Modisimus (right), but not a single Ninetinae, not even a juvenile. So I shifted my attention to dryer habitats, something not really typical of Costa Rica, but Guanacaste is an exception. Parts of Guanacaste have quite low levels of precipitation, with low deciduous forests (below left) and very dry marginal (often artificially bare) habitats (below center and right).
This is the kind of habitat where I found the supposed Galapa, here a male and a female with her egg-sac. I thus assume that Murphy's "riverine forest" is a lapsus.
Costa Ricans love fences. More often than not, searching for spiders ends before it even bagins: at a fence.
This trip was financed by the Alexander Koenig Stiftung, Bonn.