| Venezuela is
undoubtedly among the countries with the highest biodiversity, but
unfortunatly not among those that are easy to work in. The main reason
for the latter is the political and economical situation that has
deteriorated to a degree that would have been unbelievable a few
decades ago. When I visited Venezuela for the first time in 2002, the atmosphere was tense
at times, and gasoline was not always easily available, but in general
we could move as we wished and had a successful and enjoyable
collecting trip. Since then I had been waiting for an opportunity to
expand on this
project and to fill some of the worst knowledge gaps, but my hopes were
frustrated and the situation never improved but became incredibly much
worse. When I finally decided to make a second and third trip in 2017,
this seemed like an absurd idea. Many flight companies had discontinued
their flights to Caracas; the hyperinflation was soaring up to over
1,000,000%; homicide rates were among the highest in the
world; and millions of people were leaving the country.
It was only with the help of colleagues in Venezuela, especially Osvaldo Villarreal and Quintin Arias from Maracay University, that the trips in 2018 and 2020 became possible. And not only possible but even successful. In the end, we had available more than 4,000 adult specimens originating from a wide range of biogeographic regions including the Andes, the Coastal Ranges, the Guyana Highlands, and the Falcón Region. This allowed us to revise almost all the species described by M.A. González-Sponga, who between 1998 and 2011 had described 22 new genera and 51 new species of Pholcidae from Venezuela. In addition, we described 43 new species, filled many gaps in previous species descriptions (e.g. by describing the previously unknown females of 15 species), presented new records for 46 previously described species, provided new biological data on numerous species, and corrected numerous errors in previous publications on Venezuelan pholcids. At the generic level, the Venezuelan pholcid fauna now appears fairly well known. However, available data on distribution and endemism suggest that many species remain undiscovered and undescribed.
Cleared female genitalia of some newly described Venezuelan pholcids, illustrating the diversity of these species-specific structures.
This study was financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG), projects HU 980/1-1 and HU 980/13-1.