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Seashells of Eastern Arabia by Donald T. Bosch, S. Peter Dance, Robert G. Moolenbeek and P. Graham Oliver. Edited by S. Peter Dance. Motivate Publishing, Dubai, U.A.E. 9.5" X 12.5" Hardbound. 296 pages. Many color and b/w photos, drawings, diagrams. map. $85 U.S.

Eagerly awaited by collectors worldwide, this lavishly and lovingly illustrated new regional guide, Seashells of Eastern Arabia, created by a quartet of highly respected workers in conchology and malacology, is a joy to behold. The bright white cover and jacket are bedecked with familiar shells of the region -- Lambis truncata sebae, Haliotis mariae, the immensely variable Umbonium vestiarium and Chlamys noduliferus (oddly, a species not illustrated in the book and only briefly touched upon in the text) -- while the back cover carries that lovely eastern Arabian classic, Acteon eloiseae, named for the senior author's wife, and locally known as "The Eloise."

Between these covers, photos and illustrations eagerly spill over themselves in a successful bid to show the glories of the region's malacofauna. Well over 1,000 of them are in color, from full page glamour shots for large species to postage-stamp size for the wee ones. And the photography and cropping are excellent, almost invariably showing important distinguishing characteristics of the species they depict. Multiple views of many species, live animals, habitat illustrations, drawings, SEM photos, and even pictures of the authors engaged in the research and development of the book are imaginatively arranged throughout the text. In fact, the varied and well-designed page layouts make merely leafing through it a pleasant adventure.

The book opens with a forward giving a bit of history of the project, and acknowledgments of patrons, including six Omani sheiks and Petroleum Development Oman. A varied introductory section follows with the genesis of the book and its purpose -- to address the needs of amateurs and professionals alike -- and its genesis, a history of shell collecting and malacology in eastern Arabia, and factors influencing the fauna of the region. There follows a list of place names important in the text, useful because most of us are so unfamiliar with the geography. One wishes all names in the list were on the accompanying map.

The gastropod section of the treatment of species opens with the fine drawings of Mathilde Duffy, illustrating the parts of the gastropod shell, but with scant further introduction -- not a book for the novice. Species treatments include description, distribution and habitat, where the words "beached" and "offshore" appear much too often for our satisfaction...much exploration of the fauna remains to be done by SCUBA, and it appears too little is really known about habitat for this book to be the final word. But considering this lack of information, an amazing number of species are treated -- well over a thousand mollusks are known and included, many of them minute. There is no indication of rarity and distribution outside the area is not mentioned. Nor is a size range indicated.

Other omissions appear on closer scrutiny. There is an introduction to the Archaeogastropoda, but the transition to the Caenogastropoda is not marked. Subclass Opisthobranchia is handled so similarly to the families and superfamilies that the reader must hunt this transition with diligence. And there is little in the way of comparison of similar species or subspecies to species. Collectors would have appreciated seeing more opercs, particularly those of the Naticidae, and the trochids and turbos. McLean's work on the latter group also appears to have been ignored.

However, the authors have tackled a huge body of information; this was a massive undertaking, so some unevenness is to be expected. That full-page plate of life-size Festilyria festiva variations is an incredible sight, forgiving much. And the 7-page introductory section on the Bivalvia more than makes up for any gastropod lapses. P. Graham Oliver, curator of mollusks at the National Museum of Wales, has done an extensive and fine introduction to this group of oft-slighted mollusks. Muscle scars, hinges and valve orientation are interestingly treated, and the shell shape and sculpture discussion and diagrams are helpful and enlightening. John Baxter did the text for the brief but good chiton section, and Scaphopoda and shelled Cephalopoda come in for more attention than usual. An excellent glossary, an extensive and valuable reference section and index conclude this bible of eastern Arabian mollusks.

All considered, this is an immensely valuable work. To a large extent it is groundbreaking work as well, and weaknesses are bound to exist. The authors are to be congratulated on a beautiful and amazingly complete work brought to fruition. This reviewer points to its lapses not to detract, but to encourage future work. American Seashells, even in its massive second edition, had many weak spots. But it was so full of strengths that it remains the American shell bible to this day. "Bosch, Dance, Moolenbeek and Oliver" is more of a mouthful than "Abbott," but "Bosch et al." will certainly be every bit as much of a classic.

--LS

Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific: Animal life from Africa to Hawai'i exclusive of the vertebrates by Terrence M. Gosliner, David W. Behrens and Gary C. Williams. Sea Challengers, Monterey, California, 1996. 8"x10" format. Softcover. 320 pages, 1150 color photographs. $45.00

If you love sea life in all its sci-fi shapes and Technicolor glory, you'll want Coral Reef Animals of the Tropical Indo-Pacific under your tree this Christmas. And if the cold of December is getting you down, you'll feel cozy and relaxed just looking at the warm, sunlit scenes that abound among the superb underwater photos from reefs all over the tropical Indo-Pacific. The wealth of life in this region, estimated at five to ten times the marine species of the Caribbean, will keep you happily occupied as an armchair traveler, or until you can take that tropical Pacific dive trip you've always dreamed of.

Covering sponges to shrimp, snails to sea squirts, this attractive, well-bound, durable field guide to the I-P's common reef invertebrates is strictly a scientific work, cooperatively authored by three experts in the field. Terrence Gosliner and Gary C. Williams are both curators of invertebrates at the California Academy of Sciences. Dr. Gosliner is an authority on opisthobranch mollusks who spoke before the 1995 COA convention in San Diego, and Dr. Williams is a specialist in octocorals. David W. Behrens, a Research Associate at the Academy, specializes in nudibranchs. Added to the formidable body of knowledge they represent is the expertise of many other authorities they have consulted. (See the Acknowledgments and the extensive list of References.) It is probably the most accurate field guide in the genre, considering its authors' combined expertise, and it provides coverage of ecological interrelationships, reproduction, diet, and behavior, as well as interspecific associations.

The photos, one for each of 1,150 species covered, are superb, showing in excellent clarity and color the characteristics important for the identification of the animals they picture. The photography of some 52 divers is represented here. Names of well known divers will be familiar to many of us, David Mulliner, Mike Severns and Bob Yin, among them. The body of the book is devoted to the species. Each of the invertebrate groups covered opens with a general introduction to the biology, ecology, major divisions, and peculiarities and difficulties associated with that group. The photographs follow, alongside Individual Species Identifications, with attention to Identification, Natural History and Distribution.

While the Species Identifications are the most colorful and attractive section of the book, the Introduction is excellent too. A detailed discussion of coral reef communities and habitats, coral biology and formation and distribution of coral reefs bring Darwin up to date. There are also excellent sections on classification and taxonomy and on how to use the book.

A Glossary of perhaps-unfamiliar terminology -- know coelom? chelipeda? -- for groups we are less familiar with is very helpful, as is a list of Recent Geographic Name Changes: heard of Myanmar, Lakshadweep or Chuuk? -- probably not. There is a quick-reference map to the Indo-Pacific islands and archipelagos, and inside the front cover is a quick-recognition picture index key to all major groups of animals included.

This guide does not pretend to be complete -- when we realize that about 600 species of nudibranchs have been identified from a single bay in Papua New Guinea, we realize the utter impossibility of that task -- but for the diver, the sheller, the biologist, the photographer, or the aquarist, this book is a must-have for recognizing and appreciating the common species that inhabit the upper 50 feet of the Indo-Pacific coral reef communities.

-- LS

The Marine Mollusks of the Galapagos Islands: a documented faunal list by Yves Finet Geneva, 1994. 180 pp. Softcover, 8.25" x 11.25". $24 U.S.

Marine Molluscs of the Galapagos No. 1 Gastropods: A monograph and revision of the families Haliotidae, Scissurellidae, Fissurellidae and Lottiidae by Yves Finet. Ancona, Italy, 1994. 110 pp., 10 text figs., 26 color plates. Hardbound, 8.25" x 11.75". About $45 U.S.

Marine Molluscs of the Galapagos No. 2 Gastropods:A monograph and revision of the families Trochidae, Skeneidae, Turbinidae and Nertitidae by Yves Finet. Ancona, Italy, 1995. 139 pp., 10 text figs., 27 color and 10 b/w plates. Hardbound, 8.25" x 11.75". About $70 U.S.

Yves Finet's trio of books are best considered as a unit, the opening works of a series of monographs and revisions he plans for the marine mollusks of the Galapagos, a study which he says represents "much of my life's story and project." Finet is Research Officer and Curator of Mollusks at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva (Switzerland) and Scientific Associate at the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium in Brussels. The project, to which he is devoting so much of himself and of the resources of his institution and those of his contributors, was first outlined and undertaken by Leo G. Hertlein, before his death in 1972 to "grant marine mollusks the place they deserve in the existing knowledge of the biological environment of the Archipelago."

The softbound Marine Mollusks of the Galapagos Islands: a documented faunal list (an updated version of earlier lists, 1985 and 1991, now partly obsolete) must be considered first: it delineates the framework and establishes the validity of the fauna to be reviewed in subsequent revisions. No study of molluscan fauna of the Galapagos should be done without reference to this work. It documents 718 species (655 of them from shallow water) through the literature, museum specimens and private collections, with attention to references in old literature; another 228 species are considered doubtful or spurious. Finet says he will try to keep this list updated until a revision is necessary.

An interesting aspect of this list is its comment upon the vaunted molluscan endemism of these isolated islands. According to the data from Keen (1971) endemic species account for an amazing 42%; however, Finet's current list drops this number to 20%, indeed only 16% when shallow water species alone are considered. The list, with its references, makes up the bulk of the volume. Fourteen pages of references and an index conclude the book.

The second and third books contain monographs and revisions of the first eight families of the Recent Archaeogastropoda, four to a volume. In style they are a compromise, Finet says, between "the seriousness and sternness of a scientific revision" and the attractive look of a colorful popular book. Indeed it is one "popular" aspect of these works that strikes the collector first: their photographs! This reviewer has always maintained that, when studying or identifying a species, there is no substitute for actually holding the shell in question in one's own hand, weighing it, appreciating the texture and color and the light striking its curves and planes. Finet's magnificent camerawork and the superb printing have very nearly negated this view. The color photographs are so clear and the magnification is so suitable to each shell being depicted that it's as if the actual shell lay there on the page, and one had but to lift it into one's hand and turn it this way and that. He has set a new standard in shell illustration. Quarter-inch emarginulas reveal all their secrets, as do 1.7mm Eulithidium diantha (McLean, 1970) Even the SEM photos of radulas are brighter, clearer than the usual.

Six hauntingly beautiful views of various Galapagan shore habitats join them. Unfortunately, these same views are repeated in both volumes, as is the Galapagos map and the introduction. But monographs are not usually sold as a set, so this repetition will be useful for perusers of a single volume. And Finet says this is likely to change in subsequent monographs.

Following this short introduction (with charts) describing natural influences on Galapagan molluscan life, the revision of the species begins. A full treatment is given each species, including citations and synonymy, type material and locality, original description in the original language and in English if necessary, and distribution and material examined. After each family treatment is an identification key to that family, and then the plates corresponding to that family.

Granted, these scholarly but very friendly works are expensive, and the pricing trend seems to be upward. But they are produced with excellent workmanship and popular appeal, and so they are expensive to publish. They are not likely to be big sellers, individually, because of the narrowness of scope of each volume. Also they are being funded by the Geneva Museum and private donors. So the buyer must expect to pay premium prices and support his share of the expense. But any collector who makes this investment will be lastingly pleased with the quality of the product, as well as the scholarship. We can't wait to see the next monograph. There is no word on the topic. Yves Finet has indicated that taxonomic order will not necessarily be his guide.

--LS

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