The Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig

is a research museum of the Leibniz Association

Global pholcid spider diversity



Quick facts

Project title: 
Estimating global pholcid spider diversity
ZFMK Project lead: 
Object of research: 


Less than 200 years ago, French American zoologist Nicolas Hentz estimated global spider diversity to be above 2,000 species. Current estimates (76,000-170,000) are certainly closer to reality, but the wide range of estimates also shows that we are still far from having a reliable estimate of spider diversity.

One major problem is that the large majority of (spider) material currently available in museum collections suffers from a range of problems, some of which impede reasonably good estimates: (1) few localities are well collected, while most are poorly collected; (2) few species are well represented, while most are either missing or represented by only one or a few specimens and thus often by only one sex; (3) many specimens are poorly preserved because delicate spiders like many pholcids tend to be damaged when collected together with other spiders or arthropods; (4) locality data are often imprecise; (5) basic ecological data like microhabitat are usually not avilable.

For this reason I have started several long-term projects with the aim of producing reasonable estimates of the actual pholcid diversity in several megadiverse regions: the Atlantic Forest in Brazil (ongoing project, currently funded by CNPq, Brazil), the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, tropical Africa (previous DFG project: HU980/9-1), and Southeast Asia (current DFG project: HU980/11-1). The basic idea is simple: extrapolations from species per locality, endemism levels, and distribution patterns are combined with vegetation data to produce a first hypothesis of overall diversity based on more than just speculation.

Current data suggest that only about 20-30% of pholcid species have been described so far. The global total may be about 5,000 species (1,400 currently known).


Contact person

Head of Arachnida Section and Curator
SEM supervision
Ombudsman for Good Scientific Practice
+49 228 9122-294
+49 228 9122-212
b.huber [at]