Submitted by Steve Wilkinson on Mon, 10/05/2010 23:39

Guido T. Poppe and Yoshihiro Goto. Published by Mostra Mondiale Malacologia, Via Adriatica Nord 240, 63012 Cupra Marittima (AP-Italy), Italy. ISBN 88-86070-01-2

Review source

Originally reviewed by Kevin Brown in 1993.

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

It is over 20 years since the publication of C. S. Weaver &J. E. du Font's "The Living Volutes". In that time much new information has been discovered about Volutes and some 100 new species proposed, such as the beautiful Lyria doutei and Amoria yosukei. The authors of the present work aimed to provide a summary of current knowledge on Volutes and in this they have largely succeeded.

The bulk of the text consists of a systematic listening of the 247 species considered valid, each with a reference to the original description together with details of range, habitat, dimensions, information on the living animal - 150 radula drawings are included - comments on variation within the species and comparison with similar species highlighting differentiating characteristics. References are given to recent works covering the species with full details given in the bibliography. There is also a distribution map for each species. It is perhaps surprising that the authors include details of world record size specimens, particularly when they do not include any details of values saying that "Shell prices are subject to quick changes and render such a list limited in time" the same is surely true of size records.

The text is accompanied by 107 full colour plates illustrating 750+ specimens, including many type specimens. The quality of the plates is outstanding, although a few copied from other books (particularly Weaver & du Font) where specimens were unavailable for illustration, have lost some clarity when compared with the originals. I would have preferred some indication of scale with the plates, and it would have been useful to indicate locality data for the specimens illustrated. A few species are only illustrated in black and white in the text although these are mainly rare/deep water species. It is perhaps surprising though that Scaphella evelina which is only illustrated in black and white carries no reference to Abbott & Dance's Compendium of Seashells where the holotype is illustrated in colour although the Compendium is listed in the bibliography and another illustration has been copied from that work.

The book contains comparisons of several recent systematic arrangements of the Volutidae together with a more detailed account of the systematics followed by the authors. Others are better qualified than I to comment on the taxonomy used, however I would query the authors' use of the genus Athleta for the group of shells generally referred to as Volutocorbis. The authors acknowledge that this point is subject to debate and use Athleta "for reasons of simplicity and as the older name", however I would have preferred, for the sake of taxonomic stability, the use of Volutocorbis which is in more general use until the matter is resolved.

A few statements are made without supporting evidence/references, for example, referring to Cymbiola novosa "the use of the names 'oblita' and 'norrisi' are due to misinterpreting and confusion with other species". Oblita is so well established in the literature that I would have preferred some support for this sweeping statement. Having said that there is much that has become clearer from a study of this book. The coverage of the Lyria planicostata complex is the best I have seen and the key to identification in the genus Melo is very useful.

There area few minor printing errors in the text: p. 28 Guivillea atabastrina Watson, 1822 should be 1882. Hicson Cay should be Hixson Cay (p. 208). A reference to Nanomelon vossit should be to N. vossi (p. 119). The 'V shaped channel' which distinguishes Cymbium olla should be 'U shaped channel' (p. 181), but these are minor and considering the length and complexity of the text, few in number. There are a couple of places where the text is less clear than might have been possible, for example the sentence "Are considered 'rare' in shells all specimens (sic) of which only a few examples exist in collections" but these are probably due to the international nature of the book - Belgian and Japanese authors, Italian Publisher and English text! This presumably also explains the use of'anos' for anon throughout the text. More noticeable errors occur in the maps where for example Lyria delessertiana is shown with a range ofS.W. Madagascar (the text correctly gives Northern Madagascar as locality). Likewise the map for Fulgoraria hamillei bears no relationship to the distribution given (correctly) in the text.

The main 'errors' though are errors of omission rather than commission and here, whilst the bibliography shows that the authors have extensively surveyed recent specialist literature, there is much in more general books which has escaped their attention. For example, the authors interestingly mention those species where sinistral specimens are known, yet they make no mention of the sinistral Cymbium cucumis formerly in the collection of A. P. H. Oliver and illustrated in his Hamlyn Guide to Shells of the World and also in S. P. Dance's Shell Collectors Guide, this is probably the most widely known specimen of a sinistral Volute in existence! Likewise the authors state of Fulgoraria megaspira "The exact range is unknown. Probably a Japanese species". Yet Matsukama, Okutana and Habe illustrate a specimen in World Seashells of Rarity and Beauty with the exact locality - Sagami Bay, Japan. Similarly for Lyria cordis the account does include a description of the animal, but does not refer to the stunning photograph of the living holotype in R. T. Abbott's Kingdom of the Seashell. This photograph also clearly shows the species to possess an operculum, a fact the authors do not mention.

I would have personally preferred more information on the living Volutes, particularly some of the stunning photographs of living animals which have become available in recent years. The authors do give references to these and in many cases give descriptions, but as they themselves say speaking about the shell "drawings or pictures speak louder than words and provide more information than a lengthy text". Instead of collecting this information and these pictures together they remain scattered through the literature.

This book is mainly aimed at collectors of Volutes, but has wider scientific use in providing a summation of post Weaver and du Pont information. This book cannot be used as a replacement for Weaver and du Font - the bibliography is restricted to major works and those published after Weaver and du Font and the synonymies are restricted to names published after Weaver and du Font or where new information has caused changes to be made - but it serves as a companion to that work as the authors intended. Highly recommended and essential to anyone specialising in this family.