Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 409–419 | Cite as

The enigmatic Alpine opilionid Saccarella schilleri gen. n., sp. n. (Arachnida: Nemastomatidae)—isolated systematic placement inferred from comparative genital morphology

  • Axel L. Schönhofer
  • Jochen Martens
Original Article


In Opiliones, male genital morphology plays a key role in systematics and understanding the evolution of the group because functional modifications often outline higher taxonomic levels. In Nemastomatidae, different lateral stabilizing structures on the penial truncus cane developed independently. These wing-like protuberances serve as anchor points for two muscular tendons and are interpreted traditionally as generic characters. A newly discovered species from Monte Saccarello in the Ligurian Alps of North-western Italy is unique in providing anchor points as stabilizing parts of the distal truncus cane below the glans by short and narrow lateral folds. To place this unusual species within the Nemastomatidae one must re-evaluate the usefulness of male genital morphological and other characters used in the systematics of the family. The resulting phylogenetic framework is supplemented with available molecular genetic data. Based on both datasets, the creation of a new genus seems justified. Saccarella schilleri gen. n. sp. n. is subsequently described and further defined. The endemism and biogeography of the harvestmen fauna in the South-western Alps are discussed with respect to this enigmatic genus.


Morphology-based systematics South-western Alps Endemism Biogeography 



We especially wish to thank Wolfgang Schiller for donating various opilionids among which this unexpected novelty was detected. He further provided information to localize the very spot of his activities and gave detailed ecological information. We also thank Wolfgang Schawaller for kindly establishing contacts with W. Schiller. Marshal Hedin (San Diego, USA), provided access and introduced A.S. to using the BK Lab System used for taking the images in Figs. 11, 13 and 14. Robert Keith (San Diego, USA) helped to improve the English. The Feldbausch and Wagner Foundation, both at the Fachbereich Biologie, Mainz University, provided grants for field activities to J.M. Presently, A.S. is funded by a postdoc grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to work on systematics and biogeography of holarctic Opiliones. He received an EDIT/ATBI + M travel grant for research in the South-western Alps in 2008. ATBI + M (All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory and Monitoring project) aims to provide comprehensive data on the presence and abundance of organisms in outlined biodiversity hotspots in the framework of the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy: EDIT.

No ethic standards were violated.


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Life Sciences NorthSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Systematic Zoology Institute of ZoologyJohannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany

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