Venezuela 2018
The main goal of this trip was the study of the pholcid spider material of Manuel Angel González Sponga. This Venezuelan arachnologist described some 50 species of Venezuelan pholcids (about half of them currently valid) between 1999 and 2011, but he was generally not willing to loan specimens. As a result, systematic work on Venezuelan pholcids has become largely impossible because it is often unclear whether a given species is new or whether it has already been (poorly) described by González Sponga.

After González-Sponga's death, his collection was transferred to the
Museo del Instituto de Zoología Agrícola in Maracay and in November 2018, I finally had the chance to study it. I was very happy to see that most of the specimens are in good condition and that almost nothing is missing. We took the chance to photograph many of the types and we now have a detailed overview of the collection. Hopefully this will be the starting point for a comprehensive study of Venezuelan pholcids.

González-Sponga's pholcid collection (left) and Osvaldo taking photos at MIZA (right).

We also visited some extraordinary places, either looking for particular species or just exploring. Venezuela is extremely diverse in landscapes, ranging from desert to rainforest to paramo, and our preliminary data suggest that the country is probably home to several hundred species of Pholcidae. Only about 60 are currently known, i.e. a lot of collecting and taxonomic work is waiting to be done in the country.

This expedition was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG, project HU 980/13-1). I am most grateful to Osvaldo Villarreal for his help in planning the trip and for being a great companion in the field. I also thank Quintin Arias for his great support during our visit to MIZA in Maracay, and Adriano Kury for his help with bitcoins to avoid massive loss of money due to the country's current hyperinflation.