is a weird island full of contradictions, preserving an air of
anachronistic colonialism, offering all kinds of European commodities
in a tropical Caribbean ambiente, and being more easily accessible from
the Netherlands 9000 km away than from Venezuela, the country to which
it would seem to belong by geographical criteria (distance: <100 km).
For me personally, this Dutch tourist hotspot would seem relatively unattractive were it not for a genus of spiders that I myself described in 2000 and that has not been found anywhere else: Papiamenta. Two species have been known to inhabit the island. However, from several localities only females have been collected, and females of the two species happen to be indistinguishble by morphology. As a result, the distributions of the two species have been largely unknown. In our molecular phylogeny of 2018 we included Papiamenta, but the source sample included no male, so the identity of the sequenced species remained unclear. In June 2022 I took the opportunity to visit Curaçao in order to close this gap and to get first live photos of Papiamenta.
The photos above show some characteristic environments on Curaçao. A distict feature of much of Curaçao's nature is aridity, spines and thorns. Surprisingly, Papiamenta spiders occupy the seemigly most extreme habitats in the available spectrum. Below are six localities at which I found Papiamenta. They all shared two things: First, small to medium-sized stones or coral pebbles on bare rock or sand, fully exposed to the sun; and the almost complete absence of any other macroscopic life except for an occasional ant, jumping spider, or mite.
Compared to other Ninetinae, Papiamenta is a big spider (body length ~2 mm), but it shares the relatively short legs with most other Ninetinae, which is probably the reason why they build flat rather than round egg-sacs. Below are a male and a female of P. savonet, and a sample of egg-sacs photographed from below (i.e., though the glass in which the female sits).