Dominican Republic 2005
 
In November 2005 I visited the Dominican Republic and travelled more than 2500 km, visiting many localities throughout this beautiful country. The pholcids are one of those families in the Dominican Republic where more fossil (amber) than extant species are known. However, this is mainly due to the severe neglect of the family, which in fact is much more species-rich on the island than one might believe from the few described species.

My main focus was on the endemic genus Tainonia and on Leptopholcus. Tainonia is quite a large spider, with an adult leg span of 10 cm and more, with large sheet webs that are easily found in suitable habitats all over the country. Nevertheless, no more than a dozen specimens have been available from collections worldwide, and only a sigle species has been described. During my visit I collected many specimens representing up to five species.

The genus Leptopholcus is quite common on the Greater Antilles, but only three specimens of Leptopholcus hispaniola, the only representative described from Hispaniola, were previously known. As for Tainonia, the genus is widespread on the island, and at least three species occur in the Dominican Republic alone (PDF). Their cryptic coloration (greenish) and their habitat make them difficult to find. 

A few days I spent looking at amber inclusions, mostly in the Museo del Ambar in Santo Domingo, where I sorted out some 150 spiders from about 4000 amber pieces. I am indebted to Jorge Caridad for allowing me to have a look at his magnificent collection which includes some 40.000 pieces of amber with inclusions. This trip was financially supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Alexander Koenig Stiftung (AKG).