Fauna Iberica, Volume 1, MOLLUSCA: Cephalopoda

Submitted by Steve Wilkinson on Mon, 10/05/2010 23:37

Angel Guerra Sierra, 1991 pub. in Spanish by Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Madrid. ISBN 84-00-07267-7.

Review source

Originally reviewed by Jan Light in 1993.

Published in Journal of Conchology (1993), Vol.34

The series of Monographs entitled Fauna Iberica will enable publication of the results of studies on the biological diversity of the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. Written by specialists in their individual fields, volumes on vertebrate and invertebrate groups will be produced. If the first volume in the Series is anything to go by, then the publishers have set themselves a very high standard to follow.

The monographs are designed to meet the specification of a sound scientific work and a field guide for the general public and are, as such, aimed at the wide market of professionals, students and amateurs. Dr Angel Sierra is an international authority and has published extensively on cephalopods with leading involvement in several research projects in Marine Biology and Fishery Biology of Cephalopods.

In an introductory section the author identifies the problems of delimiting the marine area associated with the Ibero-Balear peninsula, particularly for the numerous pelagic cephalopod species which are active swimmers. The work that was carried out is summarised and a map of the area under consideration is provided along with a short section on Systematics and general comments on Geographical Distribution. After this there is a comprehensive section on Morphology and Anatomy of adults, which includes characteristics ofjuveniles and sub-adults, as well as a comprehensive text on all aspects of the natural history of cephalopods. A final useful section deals with collection and preservation.

A list containing 95 species in 33 families and a key to orders and families precedes the main body of the book - some 200 pages giving detailed descriptions. Each species is figured, in many instances a drawing of the whole animal is accompanied by details of arms, tentacles, suckers etc. While some of the illustrations show animals drawn in familiar poses, many of the figures have been drawn specifically for the work; the style is clear and of a very high standard. There are 19 coloured plates at the end including a series of the familiar Sepia officinalis.

Throughout, the text is throughly referenced and a bibliography contains well over 400 entries. An extensive appendix contains a list giving synonyms for all species dealt with in the book. This is especially useful because cephalopod nomeclature, as with molluscan nomenclature generally, has been the subject of revisionary attention recently at the Cephalopod International Advisory Council in Washington in 1988. A new Superorder Pseudoctobrachia (Guerra, no publicado) and a new Order Idiosepioidea (Boletzky, no publicado) are effectively published by inclusion in the book.

The subject of nomenclature brings me on to the question of the relevance and appeal of this book to a wider European readership, in particular the British one. Looking through the Smith & Heppell Checklist of British Marine Mollusca published in 1990 by the National Museums of Scotland, of the 49 species listed only 5 are missing from the Fauna Iberica volume and one of these [Sepiellajaponica) should be deleted from the British list (Heppell, pers. comm.) Three Rossia species on the British list are apparently absent from the area covered by Guerra and there are two instances of disagreement between Guerra and Smith & Heppell over the specific status versus synonymy of one Illex and one Mastigoteuthis species. This is a higher level of accord than might be expected given the current level of interest in molluscan taxonomy.

I can find very little that has been omitted from this book, although I notice that while sepions (bone) of the cuttle species have been figured, the gladii (pen) of the squids have not. It may be that a reason for this has been mentioned in the text, although I did not find it. This means that the unique gladius of Vampyroteuthis infemalis is not shown. Another small complaint involves the use of the word siphon for the hyponome, the latter organ being an enrolment of the muscular mantle and not a siphon in the scientific sense.

As one who is interested in biogeography I would have liked to see some illustrative method employed for the distribution of each species. Although geographical details are given in the text for each species, a small map would have enabled clear presentation of the known geographical ranges.

The publication of this book fills a niche that has been vacant for some time. Perhaps the closest British equivalent we have to the Fauna Iberica series is the Linnean Society's Synopses of the British Fauna - although this series concerns itself only with invertebrates. While most of the molluscan groups are adequately covered by the Synopses, we have badly needed a work on Cephalopods and, in the long run a fresh treatment of Bivalvia. Angel Sierra's contribution fills the former niche very nicely for although it is published in Spanish, so much scientific terminology is homologous across the boundaries of national languages and many of the everyday words are similar to their English equivalents. As a final bonus, the retail price is roughly @15 which for a hardback book of such quality of production and content, is astoundingly good value. It should be obtainable through good bookshops.