The Malacologist | The Malacological Society of London The Malacological Society of London The Malacologist

Volume 51


Seashells of Southern Florida

Living Marine Mollusks of the Florida Keys and Adjacent Regions: Bivalves
Paula M. Mikkelsen & Rüdiger Bieler
Cloth | £50.00 | ISBN13: 978-0-691-11606-8
224 pp. | 1,359 colour illus. | 74 line illus. | 20 x 25 cm

Despite the implication of the main title, this magnificent book is not just another guide to the shells of a popular tourist destination. It is the result of a decade of research on the diverse bivalve fauna of the Florida Keys by two of the foremost molluscan systematists. They have set themselves ambitious aims. First, the book is designed as a complete monograph of the bivalves of the region, and secondly it aims to provide an introduction to the diversity of bivalve families and standard descriptions of their morphology.

The first aim is fulfilled with a superb series of plates, illustrating all 377 species in colour, using voucher specimens from the region. For species with spectacular animals or unusual habits photographs of living animals are provided as well. The taxonomy is updated; there are, however, neither synonymies nor a checklist, since these can be found in an earlier publication by the authors (see Malacologia 46: 545-623). Descriptions are the minimum sufficient for identification, while abundance and habitat are indicated solely by somewhat unintuitive symbols. The separation of the 'featured species' of each family from the remainder, and the absence of indications of scale on the plates, make the process of identification a little more difficult than necessary, but this is a small quibble when the quality of the figures is so outstanding.

The second aim is more unusual. For each of the 59 families there is a detailed description of both shell and anatomy (running to two to three pages), a bibliography of major systematic and comparative morphological works, and a colour-coded diagram of the anatomical organization. The general biology and ecology of the families are only briefly noted. To make the technical descriptions more accessible, there is an excellent illustrated glossary. Occasionally the authors could not resist inserting a picture of a famous, if extra-limital, member of the family, such as the Giant Clam Tridacna or Pearl Oyster Pinctada maxima, a potential source of confusion to the casual reader. These family descriptions will be a useful source of reference for the specialist, and the anatomical diagrams and glossary will be valuable teaching aids. In particular the diagrams convey the complexities of bivalve organization with unparalleled clarity.

This book is therefore very much more than an identification guide. On the other hand, it is a little less than a textbook of bivalve systematics, because it covers only those families found in the Florida Keys. In fact the fauna of the region is so diverse that these families make up almost 60% of those recognized worldwide. These two purposes of the book do sit uneasily together, and will satisfy different audiences. But just as it stands this is a remarkable book: the most comprehensive and well illustrated guide to the bivalves of any tropical region, the best available summary of the comparative anatomy of bivalve families, and magnificently produced.

This is the first of three volumes on the molluscs of southern Florida, and the two companion volumes will be eagerly awaited.

David G. Reid