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- The first fossil cyphophthalmid harvestman from Baltic amber (2011)
- The first fossil cyphophthalmid harvestman (Opiliones: Cyphophthalmi) from Palaeogene (Eocene) Baltic amber is described. This is only the third fossil example of this basal harvestman lineage; the others being from the probably slightly younger Bitterfeld amber and the much older, early Cretaceous, Myanmar (Burmese) amber. Although incomplete and lacking most of the appendages, the new Baltic amber fossil can be identified as a female. The somatic characters preserved, especially spiracle morphology and the coxo-genital region, allow it to be assigned with some confidence to the extant genus Siro Latreille, 1796 (Sironidae). This fossil is formally described here as Siro balticus sp. nov. It resembles modern North American Siro species more than modern European ones, and can be distinguished principally on its relatively large size and the outline form of the body.
- Faunistic spider collections in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin: The collection of Erich Hesse (2012)
- The ‘Hesse collection’ of spiders (Araneae) and harvestmen (Opiliones) in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is documented. Biographical notes on Erich Hesse – a former arachnid curator at the museum (1921–1940) – are provided. The ‘Hesse collection’ was actually put together by other workers, and can be broadly divided into two parts. One comes from Bielinek (= Bellinchen) on the Polish side of the Oder Valley (West Pommerania); now part of the ‘Unteres Odertal’ National Park. This Bielinek material includes notable records of Heriaeus oblongus Simon, 1918 and Gibbaranea ullrichi (Hahn, 1835). The other part of the collection comes from Colbitz-Letzlinger Heide in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Notable here are Pistius truncatus (Pallas, 1772) and Philodromus buchari Kubcová, 2004; the latter representing the first record of this species for Saxony-Anhalt.
- The sejugal furrow in camel spiders and acariform mites (2012)
- Camel spiders (Arachnida: Solifugae) are one of the arachnid groups characterised by a prosomal dorsal shield composed of three distinct elements: the pro-, meso- and metapeltidium. These are associated respectively with prosomal appendages one to four, five, and six. What is less well known, although noted in the historical literature, is that the coxae of the 4th and 5th prosomal segments (i.e. walking legs 2 and 3) of camel spiders are also separated ventrally by a distinct membranous region, which is absent between the coxae of the other legs. We suggest that this essentially ventral division of the prosoma specifically between coxae 2 and 3 is homologous with the so-called sejugal furrow (the sejugal interval sensu van der Hammen). This division constitutes a fundamental part of the body plan in acariform mites (Arachnida: Acariformes). If homologous, this sejugal furrow could represent a further potential synapomorphy for (Solifugae + Acariformes); a relationship with increasing morphological and molecular support. Alternatively, outgroup comparison with sea spiders (Pycnogonida) and certain early Palaeozoic fossils could imply that the sejugal furrow defines an older tagma, derived from a more basal grade of organisation. In this scenario the (still) divided prosoma of acariform mites and camel spiders would be plesiomorphic. This interpretation challenges the textbook arachnid character of a peltidium (or ‘carapace’) covering an undivided prosoma.