Cuba 2012

In March and April 2012, Ingi Agnarsson, Greta Binford,
and Alexander Sanchez organized an expedition to Cuba in order to collect material for a NSF funded project on Caribbean biogeography. When Ingi kindly invited me to participate on this trip I gladly accepted because Cuba had been on my wish list since 1999 when I first visited the island. On that previous trip, Abel Pérez and I had only had the chance to visit localities in western and central Cuba, and the agenda of the 2012 trip included several promising localities in the eastern part of the country.

The general emphasis of the collecting effort was on a fairly large number of arachnid taxa such as scorpions, pseudoscorpions, harvestmen, amblypygids, and various spider genera, including the pholcid genus Modisimus. Modisimus is known to be highly diverse in the Caribbean, with most or all island species endemic to the respective island, with a large number of undescribed species, and with strong ecological diversification. On Cuba we found Modisimus in several different microhabitats, with pronounced morphological and color differences among species in each of them. The photos below show some examples.

Even though we were able to visit no more than four localities (Pico Turquino, Baracoa, Sierra de Cubitas, Viñales), the results of the expedition are astounding even if just looking at numbers. While only 16 species of pholcids had been known from the entire island, we collected a total of about 31 species, most of them (about 25) new to science. With more than 1000 adult pholcid specimens we assembled the by far largest collection of Cuban pholcids, and it will probably take years until all the material is properly identified and described.

I am most thankful to Ingi for inviting me to this trip, to Greta and Alex for their efforts to make the trip happen despite of intimidating bureaucratic difficulties, and to all other members of the team for bearing with me. Back from left: Matjaz Kuntner, Alexandra, Nadine Dupérré, Greta Binford, Franklyn Cala-Riquelme, Lauren Esposito, Ingi Agnarsson, Anne McHugh, Albert Deler Hernández; Front from left: Alexander Sanchez, myself, Rolando Teruel.