Guinea 2008
kindia In 1937, the French arachnologist Jacques Millot travelled in West Africa and collected some remarkable pholcid spiders in Guinea. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever since added to Millot's small collection, making Guinea one of the most interesting destinations as far as this group of spiders is concerned.

Over 70 years later we largely followed Millot's route to cover the main regions except for the dry north: the Fouta Djalon and the Forest Region. In the former, few small patches of primary forest remain and these are mostly difficult to reach due to road conditions, but once there, "the scenery is amazing and otherworldly" (lonelyplanet), and in places like the slot canyon below (left), pholcids seem to be among the most common and abundant macroscopic animals.

Larger forests remain in the Forest Region, for example at Mount Nimba, and in the Dieke and Ziama Forest Reserves. The latter is traversed by the highway Macenta - Nzerekore, and the beautiful spot below (right) is just a few steps from the car.
One of the most amazing results was the high diversity of leaf-dwelling pholcids. In Dieke Forest alone, I found five species representing five different genera. Among these was the leaf-dwelling Crossopriza cylindrogaster Simon (a), a most unusual spider that leans against the leaf with its back(!). The leaf-dwelling Spermophora (d) and Pholcus (f) are also new to science, while the other species shown here have been described previously but have not been known from Guinea (and have never been photographed alive) (b: Nyikoa limbe; c: Leptopholcus tipula; e: Pehrforsskalia conopyga; the latter was not found in Dieke but is widespread in Africa). Published in Journal of Natural History (PDF).
A total of over 500 adult specimens, many preserved in pure ethanol for DNA sequencing, made this an extremely successful expedition, and I gratefully acknowledge my companions, Rebecca Duncan and Mamadi Sidibe, the most excellent translators, guides, and warriors in bureaucratic battles. Thanks is also due the German Research Foundation for financing this expedition (Project HU 980/9-1).

Did you see the two frogs here?