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Taxonomic revision, molecular phylogeny and zoogeography of the huntsman spider genus Eusparassus (Araneae: Sparassidae)

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The spider genus Eusparassus Simon, 1903 (Araneae: Sparassidae: Eusparassinae; stone huntsman spider) is revised worldwide to include 30 valid species distributed exclusively in Africa and Eurasia. The type species E. dufouri Simon, 1932 is redescribed and a neotype is designated from Portugal. An extended diagnosis for the genus is presented. Eight new species are described: Eusparassus arabicus Moradmand, 2013 (male, female) from Arabian Peninsula, E. educatus Moradmand, 2013 (male, female) from Namibia, E. reverentia Moradmand, 2013 (male, female) from Burkina Faso and Nigeria, E. jaegeri Moradmand, 2013 (male, female) from South Africa and Botswana, E. jocquei Moradmand, 2013 (male, female) from Zimbabwe, E. borakalalo Moradmand, 2013 (female) from South Africa, E. schoemanae Moradmand, 2013 (male, female) from South Africa and Namibia and E. mesopotamicus Moradmand and Jäger, 2012 (male and female) from Iraq, Iran and Turkey. 22 species are re-described six of them are transferred from the genus Olios Walckenaer, 1837. Six species-groups are proposed: the dufouri-group [8 species: E. dufouri, E. levantinus Urones, 2006, E. barbarus (Lucas, 1846), E. atlanticus Simon, 1909, E. syrticus Simon, 1909, E. oraniensis (Lucas, 1846), E. letourneuxi (Simon, 1874), E. fritschi (Koch, 1873); Iberian Peninsula to parts of north-western Africa], walckenaeri-group [3 species: E. walckenaeri (Audouin, 1826), E. laevatus (Simon, 1897), E. arabicus; eastern Mediterranean to Arabia and parts of north-eastern Africa], doriae-group [7 species: E. doriae (Simon, 1874), E. kronebergi Denis, 1958, E. maynardi (Pocock, 1901), E. potanini (Simon, 1895), E. fuscimanus Denis, 1958, E. oculatus (Kroneberg, 1846) and E. mesopotamicus; Middle East to Central and South Asia], vestigator-group (3 species: E. vestigator (Simon, 1897), E. reverentia, E. pearsoni (Pocock, 1901); central to eastern Africa and an isolated area in NW India], jaegeri-group [4 species: E. jaegeri, E. jocquei, E. borakalalo, E. schoemanae; southern and south-eastern Africa], tuckeri-group [2 species: E. tuckeri (Lawrence, 1927), E. educatus; south-western Africa). Two species, E. pontii Caporiacco, 1935 and E. xerxes (Pocock, 1901) cannot be placed in any of the above groups. Two species are transferred from Eusparassus to Olios: O. flavovittatus (Caporiacco, 1935) and O. quesitio Moradmand, 2013. 14 species are recognized as misplaced in Eusparassus, thus nearly half of the described species prior to this revision were placed mistakenly in this genus. Neotypes are designated for E. walckenaeri from Egypt, E. barbarus, E. oraniensis and E. letourneuxi (all three from Algeria) to establish their identity. The male and female of Cercetius perezi Simon, 1902, which was known only from the immature holotype, are described for the first time. It is recognized that the monotypic and little used generic name Cercetius Simon, 1902 — a species, which had been known only from the immature holotype — as a synonym of the widely used name Eusparassus. The case proposal 3596 (conservation of name Eusparassus) is under consideration by ICZN. The first comprehensive molecular phylogeny of the family Sparassidae with focus on the genus Eusparassus is investigated using four molecular markers (mitochondrial COI and 16S; nuclear H3 and 28S). The monophyly of Eusparassus and the dufouri, walckenaeri and doriae species-groups are recovered with the latter two groups more closely related. The monophyly of the tuckeri-group is not supported and the position of E. jaegeri as the only available member of the jaegeri-group is not resolved within the Eusparassus clade. DNA samples of the vestigator-group were not accessible for this study. The origination of the genus Eusparassus around 70 million years ago (MA) is estimated according to molecular clock analyses. Using this recent result in combination with some biogeographic and geological data, the Namib Desert is proposed as the place of ancestral origin for Eusparassus and putative Eusparassinae genera. Further analyses are done on the phylogenetic relationships of Sparassidae and its subfamilies. The Eusparassinae are not confirmed as monophyletic, with the two original genera Eusparassus and Pseudomicrommata in separate clades and only the latter clusters with most other assumed Eusparassinae, here termed the "African clade". Monophyly of the subfamilies Sparianthinae, Heteropodinae sensu stricto, Palystinae and Deleninae is recovered. The Sparianthinae are supported as the most basal clade, diverging considerably early (143 MA) from all other Sparassidae. The Sparassinae and genus Olios are found to be polyphyletic. The Sparassidae are confirmed as monophyletic and as most basal group within the RTA-clade. The divergence time of Sparassidae from the RTA-clade is estimated with 186 MA in the Jurassic. No affiliation of Sparassidae to other members of the "Laterigradae" (Philodromidae, Selenopidae and Thomisidae) is observed, thus the crab-like posture of this group was proposed a result of convergent evolution. Only the families Philodromidae and Selenopidae are found members of a supported clade. Including a considerable amount of RTA-clade representatives, the higher-level clade Dionycha is not but monophyly of the RTA-clade itself is supported.

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