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