Seashells of Oman

Submitted by Steve Wilkinson on Mon, 10/05/2010 23:16
Reference

Donald and Eloise Bosch, edited by Kathleen Smythe, 206 p. of which 162 are of photographs in colour, Longman Group Ltd 1982

Review source

Originally reviewed by Peter Oliver in 1983.

Published in Journal of Conchology (1983), Vol.31

This very handsomely produced book is a welcome addition to books on shells of specific areas. Its contents, after publication details, are a list of contents, a preface, a foreword by R. Tucker-Abbott, three pages on taxonomy, a map of the Sultanate of Oman, a page on 'Geological History Shaping Molluscan Life', a page on Plankton, two on 'Thumbnail Answers to Common Questions', two on Cleaning Shells in Oman and one on 'How Big? Where Found? What Arrangement?'. Pages 26 to 197 deal with the molluscs of Oman in their classes, subclasses, orders, families and sub-families. Gastropods take up 114 pages, Scaphopods and Chitons one each, Bivalves 46 and Cephalopods two.

The names of shells are given with authors' names, in brackets where appropriate, and dates, for which congratulations are due. Too many books omit dates. The descriptions of the shells are very short but concise and the photographs are in nearly all cases very good indeed and helpful for identification. Occasionally the colour is not right, due perhaps to the printing. The descriptions include size, habitat and whether commonly found or rare in Oman. It would have been helpful, though requiring a great deal of research, if the known ranges beyond Oman had been included.

The photographs are printed to show the shells as effectively as possible for identification, but as a result shells on the same or facing pages are often quite out of proportion: as examples Cypraea nebrites, C. momta and C. mauritiana are illustrated on the same page and the picture ofC. mauritiana is only marginally bigger than those of the other two, while Argonauta argo and A. hians on facing pages are the same size. Certainly the average sizes are given in the descriptions and one would lose detail if they were illustrated in proportion, but the effect is nevertheless a little odd.

The authors say that they make no claim to present all the living molluscs of Oman, but infer that all they have collected in their twenty-five years in the Sultanate are included. It may be presumptuous to say so, but I cannot escape the feeling that the molluscan fauna of such a large area in the Indian Ocean must be somewhat greater than the 368 species included in the book. For example, are there no Littorina species in Oman? Only one scaphopod is illustrated and described, and it is not stated whether or not other species are found, while although only one chiton is included, it is acknowledged that several others have been found although most are small and present identification problems - a fair comment. (The Editor has told me that many more species have been found by the authors since they wrote the book some two years ago.)

The shell book without errors has yet to be published, but this book does not seem to have more than its fair share. However the Epitonium on page 51, given as 'Up to 65 mm' must surely be E. scalare and not E. pallasi; Hindsia bilubercularis on page 100 is a j unior synonym ofNassaria acuminata (Reeve, 1844); on the same page the bottom picture is not of Cantharus spiralis but of C. erythrostomus Reeve 1846, on page 113 Mitra pretiosa (Reeve 1844) is not correct and should be M. papilio (Link, 1807); Camilla Isabella (Swainson 1840) page 115 is only found in the area ofjapan and Taiwan, but I would hesitate to give this shell its correct name; the four shells illustrated as Cypraea grayana (Schildcr, 1930)@the upper left and lower right specimens look to me more like Cy. histrio (Gmclin, 1791) and I would have expected both species to be found off Oman.

On page 47 there is an illustration of Telescopium tetescopium (Linneus 1758). Apart from the photograph being an example of poor colouration (the shell should be a very dark grey@almost black), this species where found@in such places as mangrove swamps - is always found in abundance. The authors say 'We have found it only near Muscat, dead. Very rare'. I can only believe therefore that it must have been washed up from outside Oman and should not be classed as an Omani species.

I do not pretend that this list of corrections is exhaustive, especially as I am quite unqualified to comment on Bivalves.

Since the book was written the Ancilla species on page 111 has been named Aboschi (Kilbum, 1980). For the price of around £17,1 would recommend this book to anyone who may be interested in the shells from the North-West Indian Ocean, or who likes to own well-produced shell books.