Survey of Spiders in Caves in Israel

We conducted a collections-based research on species diversity and distribution of pholcid spiders in Israel, together with arachnid cave survey across Israel, supported by the Israel Taxonomy Initiative and in collaboration with the Cave Research Unit, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. This research was conducted by the M.Sc. student Shlomi Aharon from Ben-Gurion University, Israel, under the supervision of Prof. Yael Lubin, Dr. Merav Seifan and Dr. Efrat Gavish-Regev, and in collaboration with Dr. Bernhard A. Huber (the Alexander Koenig Zoological Research Museum, Bonn, Germany), a world expert for the spider family Pholcidae.

                Between September 2013 and June 2014 we sampled in more than 40 caves and in crevices in Israel. The survey was conducted in three different seasons: summer, autumn and spring. We collected arachnids by means of pitfall-traps with NaCl solution and hand collecting at caves with different length. In addition we recorded physical and climatic attributes of each cave including temperature (using Temperature Loggers) and luminance.       

             We collected spiders belonging to 13 families known from Istrael: Agelenidae, Araneidae, Dysderidae, Filistatidae, Gnaphosidae, Linyphiidae, Lycosidae, Pholcidae, Sicariidae, Scytodidae, Theraphosidae, Theridiidae and Uloboridae. The surveys revealed that five out of 12 pholcides are troglophiles including one species new to science that is been described nowadays1: Artema nov. sp. ("Artema nephilit"); A. doriai Thorell 1881; Hoplopholcus cecconii Kulczyn'ski, 1908; Pholcus sp.; P. phalangioides Fuesslin, 1775. In addition, as part of this cave survey we collected for the first time from Israel the troglophile family Leptonetidae, and for the first time from caves in Israel the Afrotropical family Phyxelididae2. In addition we found individuals from four additional arachnid orders: One species of Amblypygi new to science3, Acari, Pseudoscorpiones and Scorpiones.