Text Box:     Number 52 (February 2009)
Text Box: The Malacologist
Text Box: W.F. Ponder & D.R. Lindberg (editors) 
Phylogeny and Evolution of the Mollusca
University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London
2008 Cloth £29.95 ISBN 978-0-520-25092-5  469 pp. 
b/w illustr. 18 x 26 cm

The phylogeny of a group can never be known with certainty. Each phylogeny is an hypothesis, based on the best available evidence, to be tested as new data accumulate. And new data are indeed accumulating at an astonishing rate in the rapidly changing field of molluscan evolution. Molecular sequencing has been contributing to molluscan phylogenetics for more than two decades, but the more traditional areas of morphology and palaeontology have not stood still. There have been advances in anatomy and development, and discovery of new stem-group fossils, all aided by a proliferation of new techniques. Whole new fields of molecular evolutionary development and genomics are opening up. It is an exciting time for molluscan evolution, and this volume manages to compress much of the excitement and controversy of the latest discoveries into 469 pages of excellently produced, readable text. 
This volume is the product of a symposium on molluscan phylogeny held at the World Congress of Malacology in Perth in 2004. It is the latest of several fine compilations of papers on molluscan phylogeny (Taylor, 1996; Lydeard & Lindberg, 2003), reflecting the intense interest in the subject and its rapid advance. There are two particular strengths of this volume. First, its chapters have been produced by many of the leading experts, and are often the product of joint authorship by collaborating (or even competing) researchers. Secondly, there is a common format to the systematic chapters: all available evidence from morphology, molecules, genes, fossils and development is reviewed; both recent advances and current debates are highlighted, and gaps in knowledge and directions for future research are pointed out. 
Under the inspired direction of Ponder and Lindberg, the 36 authors have covered all the molluscan classes. The smaller classes (including the Bivalvia) are each covered in single chapters, but the Gastropoda are accorded seven chapters, allowing more detailed coverage of this largest and most diverse group. In their introduction, the editors have provided a useful glossary of molluscan taxa and the terminology of cladistics, molecular biology, evo-devo and geological epochs, making the volume accessible to a wider readership. The main systematic chapters are preceded by a review of the relationships of the Mollusca among the invertebrate phyla, and an account of the early Cambrian Text Box: radiation of shelled and the more controversial unshelled molluscs. The volume is completed by accounts of recent developments and future promise of evo-devo and genomics.
As befits such a changing and challenging field, parts of this volume will soon be outdated. Meanwhile, it stands as the most comprehensive and authoritative work on the deeper phylogeny of the Mollusca, and a blueprint for research in the near future.
David Reid

E. Gavetti, S. Birindelli, M. Bodon & G. Manganelli
Molluschi terrestri e d’acqua dolce della Valle di Susa
Monographia XLIV Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Italy, 2008 
Cloth E50.00 
ISBN 978-88-86041-71-3  273 pp. 177 colour figs. 18 x 25 cm

This volume reports the results of a study of the terrestrial and freshwater molluscs of the Susa Valley, on the alpine border of Italy and France. Based on examination of historical collections and on 10 years of field study, 159 species are recorded, 39 of them new to the area. This remarkable diversity is ascribed to the geographical position, and range of elevation and habitat. For each species there is a map of historical and recent finds, synonymy, notes on habitat and distribution, and a figure, usually of the living animal. The figures are all of excellent quality and in colour. The volume concludes with a short discussion of the faunistics and biogeographic affinities of the fauna.
David Reid

A. Ruiz R., A. Cárcaba P., A.I. Porras C. & J.R. Arrébola B.
Caracoles terrestres de Andalucía. Guía y manual de identificación
Fundación Gypaetus. 2008 Cloth
ISBN 84-935194-2-1  303 pp. Colour. 15 x 11 cm

This is a small pocket-sized guide, but is nevertheless a comprehensive survey of the 115 shelled terrestrial molluscs of Andalucia, including the microsnails. Each is beautifully illustrated in colour, sometimes including the living snail, and with a map of the regional range. The text describes the main features for recognition, the habitat and distribution. This is just the sort of simple but accurate and complete identification guide that will encourage professional and amateur interest in the study and conservation of molluscs.

David Reid

Return to contents page