Registry of World Record
Size Shells by Kim C. Hutsell, Linda L. Hutsell and Donald L.
Pisor. Snail's Pace Productions, San Diego. 1997. Spiral
bound, 8.5" x 11" iv + 104 pp. $15.00 + $3.00 s/h
+ tax. Available from Pisor's Marine Shells, 646 N.30th St.,
San Diego, CA 92102.
It's not often that people line
up to review a book, but that has been the case with the new
Registry of World Record Size Shells. We offer you here two
points of view, the collector-oriented one we requested from
"Supersheller" Gene Everson and the excellent perspective
Dr. Gary Rosenberg offered from his experience at the Academy
of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. We regret that we do not
have space to include more.
This publication is a welcome
successor to Wagner & Abbott's list of world records in
their Standard Catalogue of Shells, and inherits many entries
from that work. However, this is an entirely new work in many
ways. The last supplement to Wagner & Abbott's list in 1990
included 2318 entries; the new Registry includes more than 4470.
There are several other improvements. 1) The minimum size requirement
of one inch has been dropped. 2) Sizes are listed in millimeters
instead of centimeters (somehow 100.0 mm is a more appealing
goal than 10.00 cm). 3) Species are listed alphabetically by
trivial name within families, with families listed alphabetically,
instead of within genera with genera alphabetized. This makes
it easier to locate species, and prevents duplicate listing
of a species in more than one genus. Strangely, bivalves have
a separate section, but Dentaliidae, Argonautidae and Nautilidae
are alphabetized with the gastropods; a single alphabetic sequence
would be preferable. 4) A reference field has been added, which
points to description or illustration of species. Updates are
planned every few years.
To determine how robust the list
is, I checked about one quarter of the entries against the collections
here at the Academy of Natural Sciences. I found that for about
ten percent of the entries, our collection has a larger specimen
than listed (these will be submitted for the second edition).
In general, the larger the shell, the harder it is to break
the record, so if you want to look for world records in your
own collection, the best bets are in the one to four inch range.
You might get a certain satisfaction in breaking a record held
by Victor Dan or Dan Pisor, with 369 and 325 records respectively
in the current edition. A form at the back of the book allows
submission of new records and new entries (for species not currently
The Registry suffers from an
unusual number of typographical errors, presumably because the
authors rushed to have it ready for sale at the 1997 COA convention.
There are also a number of cases of species being listed under
two synonymous names, e.g., Oliva sericea and its synonym O.
textilina are both listed, or under two combinations, e.g.,
Ancilla lienardi and Eburna lienardi. The authors would have
been more likely to catch the latter type of error if they had
included the author of the species, although the space limits
of one line per entry might preclude this. I also noticed entries
where the location is impossible (e.g., Ancilla ventricosa is
from East Africa, not West Africa), which casts doubt on the
identity of the specimen.
Of greatest concern however is
that many of the world records in the Registry are smaller than
the maximum size listed for the species in the standard work
on the group. For instance, compare maximum sizes in Bratcher
& Cernohorsky (1987) on Terebridae to those in the Registry.
A particularly striking example is Terebra funiculata, 69 mm
vs 32.5 mm. This is important to the collector, because world
record size specimens often command a premium price. The premium
might not be great for a species like Terebra funiculata, but
how about in the Pleurotomariidae? Anseeuw & Goto (1996)
cite the largest Perotrochus midas as 127.5 at the American
Museum of Natural History, and the holotype as 118.3. The Registry
lists the world record P. midas as 77.4 mm. For nine out of
sixteen entries for pleurotomariids in the Registry, Anseeuw
and Goto list larger specimens (Perotrochus africanus, hirasei,
lucaya, midas, pyramus, salmiana, teramachii, vicdani, westralis.)
The Registry would be much more
authoritative if it included record sizes from the literature,
and I recommend this be done in future editions. The problem
with such literature records of course is that often the repository
of the largest specimen is not stated; the authors just give
a size range for the species. Still, the Registry could have
a convention for such cases to state "unknown" for
"Repository" and to give the literature citation for
the record size under "Reference". Or the Registry
could give two listings, one for the literature record, and
one for the largest record tied directly to a specimen.
I found that there is quite a
bit to be learned from maximum sizes. Maximum sizes are one
gauge of the range of variation in a species, and can aid in
identification. In several cases I concluded that accepted synonymies
were probably not true. Our collection lists Vexillum tumidum
Reeve, 1844, as a synonym of Vexillum gruneri Reeve, 1844. We
have forty adult specimens of V. gruneri, none bigger than the
listed record of 30.0 mm. We have 11 specimens of V. tumidum
larger than 30.0 mm and only one adult smaller. This strongly
suggests that they are distinct species (which is fortunate,
because V. tumidum otherwise has one month priority over V.
gruneri.) This points out another feature of the Registry, that
subspecies, varieties and forms often have their own entries.
I consider this an advantage, as these infraspecific taxa might
someday prove to be full species, and maximum sizes might provide
evidence as to their status.
Minimum sizes are also informative,
and the Registry lists a few minimums for Cypraeidae and Strombidae.
This is an area that has been little explored. I would encourage
collectors to start submitting minimum size records to the Registry
in families where it is possible to tell that a small shell
is fully adult. You probably have a better chance of getting
your name into the Registry that way too -- less competition!
I had an immediate clue that this
would be a quality reference because of the good taste required
to illustrate Chicoreus eversoni on the cover. But more about
There are four main differences
between The Registry of World Record Size Shells and its predecessor,
Wagner & Abbott's World Size Records in the Standard Catalog
of Shells, and all of them are improvements on the Wagner &
- Size. The number of entries
has almost doubled, from 2318 to 4470. Bigger is better in
this case. Yet the physical size of The Registry is only a
fraction of the heavy and bulky Standard Catalog in which
the original World Size Records was contained. Also the spiral
bound format keeps the page open to where you want it with
no hands or bookmark. Smaller is better here.
- Measurements. The entries
are in millimeters to the nearest tenth millimeter. The old
World Size Records was in centimeters. Most collectors use
millimeters and, while it is no strain to move a decimal,
this format is more comfortable and eliminates the mental
- Classification. The Standard
Catalog World Size Records and the Lost Operculum Club List
of Champions (size records for marine shells of the Eastern
Pacific from Alaska to Chile) both list alphabetically by
genus. The new Registry lists alphabetically by family. Example:
Conidae. Then abbas, abbotti, etc. The next column lists genera.
Two examples show that this is better. Imagine a turrid collector
(there are a few) looking for records. This is a family with
about 679 genera. Now he can scan a couple of pages in a row
instead of looking in 679 different locations. Next imagine
a collector who just received a dealer's list and wants to
check the sizes against world records. Many dealers list Cassis,
Cypraecassis, Semicassis, Phalium, etc. under the genus Cassis
for simplicity. And many lump Chicoreus and other muricid
genera under Murex. In the Registry you can find the intended
species immediately instead of looking in other references
first to find what the current genus is. And generic names
frequently change but species do not. Maybe half of the species
in your collection should have a parentheses around the author
and date to indicate that the genus has been changed since
it was described. With a little trial and error, I decided
on this family and species system for my personal catalog
use and, after thirty years, have not found a better way.
Perhaps most convincingly, Tucker Abbott had decided to use
this system in the next edition of his World Size Records
as a part of his intent to make the work more educational,
but didn't live to fulfill his plan.
- References. The last column
contains a reference with a page number or a plate and figure
number. Many times I have acquired a little known species
and searched through a dozen books trying to find an illustration
or just to verify a dealer's identification. Now, even if
I'm not interested in records, I can use the Registry to identify
a reference on the first try.
The references used in the Registry can pose questions. Why
is Cernohorsky's Marine Shells of the Pacific, Vol. II listed
and not volumes I or III? Alison Kay's Hawaiian Marine Shells
is listed, but the definitive work on New Zealand shells,
New Zealand Mollusca by A.W.B. Powell is not included. Many
other landmark works by highly respected malacologists are
omitted, while articles in periodicals frequently written
by amateurs, such as La Conchliglia and American Conchologist,
are. It would seem the included 49 references were just those
used by the authors for this edition. Nor do I see anything
in the Introduction or the Record Submission & Verification
Form that excludes any reference. So it seems obvious that
these references will be expanded in future editions as contributors
list them on their entries. However, this should be spelled
out. We should not have to guess about this. One or two sentences
in the next introduction regarding acceptable references should
clarify the question.
I appreciate the time and effort
that it took the editors to include a reference for every species.
None of the entries I submitted to the old World Size Records,
and I'm sure it's true of most others, included a reference,
because none was required or requested in the past. This required
a great amount of work.
One question the book did not
answer was: "Who has the world's largest shell?" The
bivalve winner is Victor Dan with a Kuphus polythalamia measuring
1,532.0 mm. The family name of Teredinidae was misspelled. The
American Museum of Natural History has a Tridacna gigas measuring
1,368.7 mm. Finding the largest gastropod was not so easy. I
looked for Syrinx aruanus in the Turbinellidae but no Turbinellidae
was to be found. Where was Syrinx? Where were Turbinella, and
Columbarium, Benthovoluta and the other genera from Turbinellidae?
I found Syrinx in Melongenidae and those other genera in Vasidae.
This is something else to list in the introduction -- whose
system of taxonomy are we following?
Now, back to the cover. I was
glad to see my namesake shell identified inside the front cover
as "Chicoreus eversoni D'Attilio, Myers & Shasky, 1987,"
as this is current taxonomy. Originally described in the genus
Phyllonotus, which is now considered a subgenus, eversoni was
assigned to Chicoreus (Phynllonotus) by Emily Vokes in her most
recent interpretation. So, the authors and date should be enclosed
in parentheses denoting a genus change, but they aren't. A minor
thing. But in the body of the work, the species eversoni is
back in the genus Phyllonotus, and other Chicoreus subgenera
such as Siratus are still shown as full genera as well. I think
this is still a minor point. This book is meant to be a useful,
working and evolving tool and should not be nitpicked on details
that are not relevant to its purpose. The authors are not producing
a treatise on each family with hot-off-the-press reclassifications.
I suspect they are following Vaught's classification which has
been out for a few years, and is by no means perfect or up-to-date,
but is readily available and inexpensive, and thus a good choice.
But if so, this standard should be identified in the introduction,
so that one knows where to find a shell. Also, typos are found
in almost every book, and this is no exception, but they do
not lessen the useful information, which is the main reason
why we will buy this book. Two thumbs up!
Ed. note: The senior author tells
us that the next edition of the Registry will attempt to acquire
the Lost Operculum Club List of Champions data that has been
submitted since the last edition of the publication in 1987,
as well as any earlier data that has not been included in the
current edition of the Registry. This list includes many species
under 1", the lower cut-off limit imposed by Wagner &