Systematics, Biogeography, and Evolution of Cyphophthalmi (Arachnida, Opiliones)

The suborder Cyphophthalmi includes ca. 170 described species and subspecies of small Opiliones ranging from about 1-6 mm in length, found worldwide, with a rather ancient distribution. The family Sironidae is distributed in Japan, Europe and North America. The family Pettalidae follows a typical temperate Gondwanan distribution. The family Troglosironidae, endemic to New Caledonia, is the sister group to the family Neogoveidae, found in tropical South America, West Africa and the SE USA. The family Ogoveidae is endemic to West Africa where it co-occurs with members of Neogoveidae. The family 
Stylocellidae is restricted to Sundaland and Wallacea, reaching as far North as China. The low dispersal ability of Cyphophthalmi results in one of the highest degrees of endemism of any animal groups known to me. About 60% of the described species are only known from the type locality, although this number may also reflect the difficulty in finding these cryptic leaf-litter-inhabitants. Another interesting aspect of the cyphophthalmid diversity is their ability to undergo explosive radiations, as represented by the pettalids of New Zealand (with about 20% of the World described diversity!), Afromontane forests of South Africa, and by the sironids from the Balkans. Cyphophthalmi constitute an excellent example for studying aspects of biodiversity, endemism, biogeography, and evolutionary history.
Cyphophthalmi Distribution

Online Catalogue of Cyphophthalmi


Personnel at Harvard University:

Gonzalo Giribet is the PI coordinating the work on Cyphophthalmi. He has collaborators in several countries where he and his students have conducted field work.

Ron Clouse is a graduate student working on the family Stylocellidae, with emphasis on the Indonesian species.

Prashant Sharma is a graduate student who has worked on the New Caledonian Troglosironidae, the Indian stylocellids, and the Sri Lankan pettalids. He now specializes in another group of Opiliones and their biogeography in SE Asia and the South Pacific.

Jerome Murienne is a postdoctoral researcher interested in arachnid phylogeny and biogeography, currently working on Balkan sironids.

Collaborators outside of Harvard:

Sarah Boyer successfully graduated from Harvard University with an excellent work on the family Pettalidae, with emphasis on the New Zealand radiation. She was awarded with the prestigious NSF DIG to study phylogeography of Rakaia denticulata in New Zealand. She is now an Assistant Professor at Macalester College.

Peter Schwendinger from the Muséum d'histoire naturelle de la Ville de Genève (Switzerland) is collaborating on the study of the south-east Asian stylocellids. He has ample experience doing field work in south-east Asia.

Ligia Benavides is currently a graduate student at The George Washington University, but continues with her research on the Colombian members of the family Neogoveidae.

William A. Shear from Hampden-Sydney College is a renowned Cyphophthalmi expert collaborating in several aspects of the NSF-funded grant. He is currently undertaking a revision of the North American species. We are currently collaborating in a study of ozophore secretions in Cyphophthalmi.

Indika Kuranarathna from the University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka) has collaborated with us during the field expedition to the island and is currently working on the endemic genus Pettalus.

Tone Novak from Maribor has collaborated in the study of Slovenian Cyphophthalmi.

Ivo Karaman from Novi Sad is collaborating in different aspects of the biogeography and systematics of Balkan sironids.

Gerd Alberti from Greifswald University is a world leader in the sperm ultrastructure and morphology of arachnids. We are collaborating on the evolution of sperm ultrastructure in Cyphophthalmi.

Cahyo Rahmadi from the Bogor Zoological Museum has collaborated in collecting stylocellids from Indonesia.

Jessica Baker, currently at NYU Medical School, has collaborated on the phylogeography of Aoraki denticulata, a widespread cyphophthalmid species from the South Island of New Zealand.

Carlos Prieto from the Universidad del Pais Vasco has collaborated on west African cyphophthalmids, where he has conducted extensive fieldwork.