R. H. Morris, D. P. Abbott and E. C. Haderlie. Stanford University Press, 1980. 690 pp., 200 colour plates. ISBN 0 8047 1045 7
Originally reviewed by John Taylor in 1982.
Published in Journal of Conchology (1982), Vol.31
Some of the most innovative work in intertidal ecology over the last 20 years or so has emanated from the laboratories and universities of the north-west coast of America. To most of us in Europe, the fauna is unfamiliar and the names referred to in books and papers mean little without some association with illustrations or specimens. Although molluscs are generally well served by identification guides, other phyla are not so well covered and this book is thus a welcome arrival.
This very large book is a systematic catalogue of the common invertebrate animals of the Californian coast. It measures 28x22 cm, weighs 2-8 kg and has 200 pages of colour photographs and 690 pages of text. It follows a systematic treatment from protozoa to insects and each of the 28 chapters concerning animal groups is written by D. P. Abbott and E. C. Haderlie in combination with 31 co-authors and specialists in the groups concerned. Each chapter has a general introduction on the major features, relationships and biology of the animal groups concerned and is followed by an account of each species. The colour plates are in a separate part of the book, so the thumb-nail sketch with each species provides a welcome reminder. There is a brief description of each animal followed by a summary of what is known of its biology and ecology with a list of key references. The book is an absolute mine of information and widely dispersed works concerning feeding habits, reproductive biology, physiology, distribution etc. have been collected together in succinct summaries. Over 5500 references have been cited and in all 288 species of molluscs have been considered.
The core of the book is the colour plates, which were largely taken by R. H. Morris and are on the whole very good with most of the animals being photographed live or freshly collected. For the molluscs there are about 300 individual photographs: the 70 or so pictures of Opisthobranchs are striking but the prosobranchs are not consistently orientated and for many the apertures are not shown.
The book is not just relevant to California, for as similar or related species occur in may other parts of the world the book is a treasure trove of information to anyone interested in the biology of intertidal animals. If used in conjunction with the excellent ecological summary 'Pacific Seashores' by Thomas Carefoot (University of Washington Press) the two books provide a superb guide to the animals and their ecology on this rich and varied coastline. Finally, the book is very well produced and very good value for money, in fact a bargain.