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The World's Most Beautiful Seashells by Leonard Hill and Pete Carmichael. 246 pp., 462 colored plates. Carmichael Publications, Tampa, FL. Hardback $29.95; softcover $22.95. ISBN 1-884942-00-8.

Without question the stunning photographs of the 460 species in this beautiful coffee-table book are the best yet offered to today's growing legion of shell-lovers. No conchologist, whether professional or amateur, will fail to enjoy this portfolio of exquisite presentations of what, indeed, should be called "The World's Most Beautiful Seashells." Each photograph by Pete Carmichael is a well-balanced portrait with several views of each rare or well-known shell familiar to most connoisseurs of shells.

Three hundred and seventy marine gastropods, 68 attractive bivalves, and a sprinkling of 21 terrestrial tree snails take the reader through a parade of traditionally sought-after species. Quite naturally, dealer-purchased species dominate, with 33 devoted to the be-spined Thorny Oysters and brilliant scallops. Close-ups of the Tent Olive, the Cat's Tongue Thorny Oyster, Kiener's Delphinula, and the Purple-ringed Top Shell are worth many enjoyable moments of reflection upon the "miracle of mollusks."

The text by biologist Leonard Hill accompanying each illustrated species supplies interesting information. In all cases the accurate popular and scientific names are given. In many instances, however, no shell size is indicated, although the viewer with some knowledge of shells may assume that most pictures are life-size. Although it scarcely mars the otherwise correct identifications, the wrong use or absence of parentheses around the author-and-dates should not be relied upon. This is not meant to be a technical identification book, but an index would have been very useful.

When bad weather keeps you off the beach or when driving rain or snow is swirling about your abode, take this book in hand and relive your collecting fantasies of deepsea treasures. You will rekindle your love of nature and once again marvel at the exquisite creations that evolved on our planet for our enjoyment and protection.

--R. Tucker Abbott

 

Marine Life of the North Atlantic: Canada to New England, by Andrew J. Martinez and Richard A. Harlow. Marine Life. Soft cover, spiral bound, 272 pages.

How many collectors, I wonder, have tried to identify a mollusk from observations made on live specimens in the field when none of the standard shell books show anything but dead specimens? This all-too-familiar problem would soon become a thing of the past if more books like this one were available. An expertly photographed field guide to all variety of marine organisms, it is at once both useful and breathtaking.

Based in format on the marine photo-guides usually found for tropical areas like the Caribbean or Baja California, this book covers life under the sea from A[cadian hermit crabs] to Z[ irfaea crispata} and all manner of algae and fish in between. These pictures prove that there is beauty under every sea, even one as cold as the North Atlantic! Each pair of opposing pages is set up with text on the left page and a photo illustration for every species on the right. The text includes sections on the all-important identification criteria, habitat, range, and a comments section that includes interesting trivia and tidbits (common names, similar species, etc.). The photographs, especially those of the mollusks, are vibrant and clear, showing details of the living animals close up. In addition, the photo pages contain a useful feature I have not seen before: data lines for entering dates and locations where the reader has seen the species in the wild.

The mollusk section, by far the largest, is over 50 pages long, and is quite comprehensive for this geographic region. The four major classes are included, with the gastropods getting most of the attention. It is the pictures that immediately grab you here, and the photos of the nudibranchs are frankly spectacular, especially as many of them depict the animals laying their species-characteristic egg masses. Best, perhaps, is that the mollusks are photographed, for the most part, live in the field and not as dead shells arranged on a beach -- even the bivalves, a group that has always been poorly illustrated in this type of book. Rounding out this edition, excellent pictures of cnidarians and echinoderms (especially the feeding sea cucumbers) show beauty in the sea extends beyond the mollusks.

There are a few problems, to be sure. The few pictures of dead mollusks are of rather ratty ones, and although this might be a more accurate depiction of what the average person would find beachcombing, they look out of place here. A few typographical errors occur, the most glaring being the "bivalves" heading on the cephalopod pages; and since the authors give some synonyms, I would like to have seen at least the authors' names applied to the species. On the whole, however, the many photographic positives definitely outweigh the fe negatives.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this book is that it is privately published, something one doesn't see much of with these glossy photo-guides. This, I suspect, tends to make the book harder to find than many, but the hunt is worth the effort. For more information, write Marine Life, P.O. Box 335, Wenham, MA 01984.

--Chris Boyko, AMNH

 

Inner Dimensions, The Radiographic World of William Conklin, by William Conklin. W.R.S. Publishing Co., Waco, TX. 1995. xi + 101 pages, 11" X 11", hardcover. $29.95. Order direct from W.R.S. Publishing by calling (800)299-3366.

A new and very unusual book is appearing on the coffee tables of shell collectors around the country. Inner Dimensions, by William Conklin, a COA member from Orangeburg, S.C., features radiographic photos of shells. We've seen such photos, revealing the inner structure of a shell through a light and dark x-ray image. But to peruse a whole book of them, and one as beautifully assembled as this, is quite an experience. For one so enamored of the shapes and swirls of mollusc shells as a shell collector is, it can amount to an uplifting journey of the spirit. We marvel at the internal intricacy of a well-decorated carrier shell and its adornments, admire the precise mathematical progression of Buccinum leucostomum, wander the many-roomed mansion of the Emperor's Slit Shell, and cherish the pas de deux of a cowry shell with its inner bulla-child.

Forty-nine molluscs and a sand dollar have their internal complexities revealed by Dr. Conklin's photos, a full-page white image on black ground. On each facing page is a smaller, full-color photo of the shell itself, almost always a really excellent specimen, lovingly lighted and photographed, along with a standard short bio of the species, including interesting facts and anecdotes, size, locality and degree of rarity.

Completing each full-page spread is a scrap of appropriate poetry, selected by librarian and author Christine Boldt. The predictable shelly works by Victorians are there, including both the "This is the ship of pearl" part and the "Build thee more stately mansions" bit from Oliver Wendell Holmes' "The Chambered Nautilus." But there are other, more surprising and very apt, inclusions: The Junonia is teamed with Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Pied Beauty": "Glory be to God for dappled things...." and a quote from Plato's Phaedrus as comment on an Achatina land shell: "Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who here abide, grant me to be beautiful in the inner man, and all I have of outer things to be at peace with those within."

Also of interest are the Introduction on shells and shell collecting by Alan H. Shoemaker, a South Carolina Zoologist, and a Foreword by Professor of Radiology William W. Orrison, Jr. which provides the reader with a little background on radiology. This isn't a book you can't live without, but it's one that will bring you hours of peaceful contemplation on a subject close to your heart, the lure of the shell and its variations on a theme. And in these days of horrendously expensive shell books, it's quite a bargain.

--L.S.

Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells (Pliocene and Pleistocene Marine Gastropods) by Edward J. Petuch, Ph.D. Chicago Spectrum Press, 1994. xii + 394 pages, 20 figures, 1 unnumbered photo, 100 plates, all b/w. $60.00.

Anyone collecting Florida fossils has experienced great frustration trying to put names on his finds using the references available. All those Siphocypraea are rivalled only by the Busyconidae and Melongenidae for forms and variations. But Dr. Edward Petuch, of the Department of Geology, Florida Atlantic University, has done us a great service in pulling them all together in his new Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells. (The Pliocene and Pleistocene gastropods, that is. Eocene and those little Miocene species from the Panhandle are still in limbo for most of us.)

This heavily illustrated reference book is a pleasing 8½" X 11" size, stitched and cloth-bound, and lies open nicely for study at any page. Open it to the Introduction and you have Dr. Petuch's interesting and informative overview of fossil study in Florida, including his own place in this continuum. Open it to the Acknowledgements and you'll see many familiar names, collectors of molluscs both fossil and Recent, who have assisted Dr. Petuch. Open it to Chapter 1, the Lithostratigraphy and Biostratigraphic Nomenclature of the Floridian Plio-Pleistocene, and you're on your way to learning how to tell a Siphocypraea alligator from a Siphocypraea crocodila (maybe). Here Dr. Petuch explains all those formations and units and such that keep a novice collector in a state of confusion. Charts, columns, maps, photos and Dr. Petuch's own charming drawings, called "ecological block" drawings, aid in our learning process. Chapters 2 and 3 Cover "Faunal Types" and "Chronologically-Equivalent Units and Faunas."

There follows Chapter 4, the 100 plates, containing over 1,100 photographs arranged taxonomically by families, Most of these photos are clear and identifiable, though there is much room here for improvement. In many cases it is difficult to distinguish important details of the specimens illustrated, or even to tell one species from another. The photo reproduction process used is part of the problem. Figure captions are helpful, listing name, author, date, size, abbreviation for the unit(s) in which it occurs, and collecting locality. Coverage is broad: 29 species of cowries, 41 Olividae, 73 cones, and so on.

Chapter 5 is the "Systematic Section." Here, 283 new species are described, (holotypes of all new taxa are deposited in the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville) as well as 10 new genera and two new subfamilies. For each new species, a description is given, followed by holotype information, Type Locality, Remarks (including comparisons of the new species to other similar species) and an Etymology.

A list of plates, a list of new taxa, a six-page list of literature cited and used, and an index conclude the Atlas. The index is arranged alphabetically by genera, which makes finding a species difficult if the genus is unfamiliar (or new). This book is, without a doubt, a more satisfying, better rounded fossil guide than have been any of his previous works. It is going to make fossil collecting in Florida a lot more fun. But at a high price. We can only wish that Dr. Petuch had been introduced to Dr. Conklin's publisher.

--L.S.

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