Alain Coulombel, 1993, Editions Edisud, La Calade, RN7,13090 Aix en Provence, France. 143 pp. ISBN 2-85744-707-8.
Originally reviewed by Kevin Brown in 1997.
Published in Journal of Conchology (1997), Vol.36
This book serves as a good introduction to the Marine shells of Djibouti, a small state at the mouth of the Red Sea, between Ethiopia and Somalia and opposite to Aden. As France is the former colonial power it is fitting that this study should have been published in France. The text is in French, but illustrations explaining the specialist terms used in the descriptions help make it easy to follow. The introduction includes details of local habitats and a section on conservation and it is interesting to note that such a small state should have two Marine National Parks.
The bulk of the book consists of detailed descriptions of the species covered - some 200 Gastropods and 40 Bivalves - accompanied with superb quality colour photographs, most life size or larger, showing dorsal and ventral views of each Gastropod and inte- rior and exterior views of each Bivalve. Maps clearly show the local distribution of each species and there is an indication of the frequency with which each shell occurs in Djibouti, There is no indication of the species wider distributions outside Djibouti and the use of local frequency only can be confusing - Cypraea moneta, for example, is considered rare and Cypraea pulchra abundant The number of species covered is limited concentrating on those larger species which will more commonly be found, and it is a pity that many smaller species occurring in the area are not included. There are, however, a number of unusual species illustrated. I was particularly interested in the selection of Ancillas which includes A. testudae, A. djiboutina, A. albisukata, A. acuminata, A. ventricosa, A. exigua & A. ampla. A number of Red Sea endemics are prominently featured, including Cypraea exusta, Mitra bovei, Conus erythraeensis and Homalocantha digitata, but it is surprising to find the locally common subspecies Strombus gibberulus albus shown as S. gibberulus.
The large format - 25 cm x 29 cm - make the book a little unwieldy to handle, it could certainly not be used as a field guide, but it is well laid out and easy to use with a good bibliography and index. It can certainly be recommended as a good introductory guide to the shells of Djibouti but is limited in coverage.