29 September 2006

Buy this book!

mollusksbookA new book about our favorite animals, The Mollusks, edited by Sturm, Pearce and Valdés, has recently been published by the American Malacological Society (AMS). The book is for serious collectors, amateur malacologists and anyone else who wants to learn more about one of the most successful animal groups evolution has produced.

One reason why you should consider buying this book is that yours truly wrote one chapter (23, rearing terrestrial gastropods) and co-authored (with Tim Pearce) another (22, terrestrial gastropods). Another, and perhaps a much better reason to spend your money on this book is that the revenue from the sale of the book will support the scientific program, student scholarships and grants administered by the AMS.

Moreover, this is a good book. As the editors point out in the introduction, each chapter was peer-reviewed (I know my chapters were and not just once but several times). There is a lot of practical information on collecting, raising mollusks and properly maintaining a collection, even picking the right paper for your labels so that they will still be intact and readable long after your bones have turned into dust. There are chapters on most major mollusk groups written by specialists for nonspecialists as well as on cladistics, fossil mollusks and conservation. One thing this book won't help you do is identify your specimens, which is not what it was written for.

But no book is perfect and no book review is complete without criticism. Unexplainedly missing in this book is a chapter on opistobranchs, the sea slugs, even though some lesser known mollusk groups, for example, the aplacophorans, are rightfully included. Also needed are an index and a general outline of molluscan classification to explain to the uninitiated the phylogenetic relationships between the different mollusk groups discussed in the book.

Finally, in our age of digital photography, chapter 7 discussing in great detail film photography is curiously outdated and the shorter chapter 6 on digital imaging is quite inadequate.

These shortcomings aside, you won't regret buying this book. The table of contents and ordering information are available on the AMS website.


Charlie Sturm said...

As one of the editors of the book The Mollusks, I would like to reply to some of Aydin's comments. The chapters on digital and film photography were among the earlier chapters that were written. There was much evolution in the area of digital imaging that we were not able to incorporate within the chapter. The chapter on film photography includes much theory that is applicable to digital photography such as underwater photography and photographing through glass. The authors of these chapters confered with one another to minimize repetition. This partly explains why the film photography chapter is longer.

I originally planned on separating the marine gastropods into two chapters. At the time I had some difficulty finding individuals to write these chapters. Dan Geiger was willing to tackle a single chapter covering the whole of the marine gastropods. Amateur collectors do not collect opisthobranchs as often as they do the "prosobranch". This helps to explain the lesser treatment of the opisthobranchs.

Lastly, I made an editorial decision to forgo an index. I somewhat regret this, however, time constraints forced me to make this decision. When the book is revised (don't hold your breath, it will be at least 10 years), there will be an index.

As editor, I do not have to reveal what I feel are some other shortcomings of the book :-)
However, I do feel that it was a good first attempt. With more constructive criticism, such as provided by Aydin and Jose Leal in his review in The Nautilus, I believe the next edition will be even better.

I encourage anyone who purchases the book to e-mail me their comments at doc.fossil@gmail.com
Suggestion and criticisms will be archieved and reviewed when work on the next edition is started.

Charlie Sturm

Snail said...

Done! Ordered through the publisher's web site, as suggested. Now I'll sit back and wait for the delivery of my (very) early Christmas present to myself.


Charlie, I will be glad to help you prepare an index for the 2nd edition.