The first blind pholcids from Australia and Réunion
Published in Subt. Biol., together with Guanliang Meng, Huon L. Clark, and Grégory Cazanove

Pholcids are common inhabitants of tropical and subtropical caves around the globe. Numerous species have evolved troglomorphisms, including the complete loss of eyes. Here we describe the first troglomorphic pholcids from Australia and Réunion.

Belisana coblynau was extracted from mining boreholes in the arid West Australian Pilbara region. It represents a genus that is widespread in tropical forests of South and Southeast Asia, reaching the tropical north and east of Australia. Belisana coblynau is thus presumably a relict whose epigean ancestor lived in the area before the aridification of Australia starting in the early Cenozoic.

Photos: Huon L. Clark

Buitinga ifrit was collected in Grotte de La Tortue on Réunion, one of the oldest lave tubes on the island (~300,000 years). Congeneric species are known from East Africa, and the genus does not seem to have reached Madagascar. Since Pholcidae do not balloon, the now extinct epigean ancestor of Buitinga ifrit probably reached the island by highly accidental means (such as rafts or storms).

Photos: T. Percheron