Field of Science

New Zealand Harvestmen: Please Help

The cave-dwelling Forsteropsalis photophaga, a remarkable harvestman species described in Taylor & Probert (2014).

As regular readers of this blog will be well aware, I've been working for several years now, off and on, on the taxonomy of long-legged harvestmen of the family Neopilionidae from Australia and New Zealand. In the past few years, this has been a bit more off than on: the necessities of earning a crust have meant that I haven't had the time to dedicate to full-time harvestman research. Nevertheless, I've been putting things together here and there where I can and an enormous amount of progress has been made. Back when I first decided to investigate this group of animals in 2000/2001, there were a handful of named species, often with descriptions amounting to nothing more than a couple of vague lines, all but unidentifiable in practice. Over time, I've redescribed each of these species in turn, as well as describing and naming a pile of new ones. We've learnt things about these animals we never knew before, such as the presence in many populations of a remarkable divergence within males to the extent that to the uninitiated they might be (and have been) mistaken for completely different species. We've seen the incredible range of forms in this group, from long-jawed monsters like to one at the top of this post, to heavily armoured cryptic soil-dwellers like in this photo by Stephen Thorpe.

After many years, I feel I'm finally approaching the point where I can put the finishing touches on my revision of the New Zealand neopilionids (for a given value of 'finish', of course, because there is no group of organisms for which the work is ever truly finished). Ideally, I would like to publish something incorporating a complete overview of this group of animals, a complete guide to all the known species offering a one-stop-shop to allow anyone, anywhere to confidently identify any specimen that might come to their hand. It's also important to me that I publish this guide in an open-access format so that it's also available at any time.

But to do that, I need your help. In order to be able to travel to the New Zealand museums that hold types and other crucial specimens that I need to examine, and to cover the publication fees of the resulting product, I've started a crowdfunding drive. Head over to and you'll be able to support my research, follow the results as they become available, and receive full acknowledgement in the resulting publication(s). Even if you can't support me directly myself, you would be helping immensely if you inform others of my campaign, whether through social media, in person, or any other medium that makes itself available. Together, we can bring this truly incredible group of animals the recognition they so richly deserve!

If you want to see some of my work on harvestmen that's already come out, check out the links below:

Remarkable things
Possibly the coolest thing I had published this year
Score one for biogeography
How to wipe out a family
The saga of Forsteropsalis fabulosa
More on the New Zealand Opiliones
Bye, bye, Spinicrus
The eater of light
New Zealand fills a biogeographical gap


  1. Just sent an American Benjamin your way- hope you make your goal, and then take us along (virtually) with a great post!

    1. Thank you very much! I also can't resist noting that an American Benjamin significantly beats out an Australian Betty.


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