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Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific

Terrence M. Gosliner, David W. Behrens & Gary C. Williams

Foreword by John E. Randall

0-930118-21-9 $45.00

Over 1,100 species in full color

Sea Challengers

4 Sommerset Rise, Monterey, CA 93940

Publication date: 1996

Bob Fenner  

Still another in a lucky string of new marine invertebrate paperbacks, Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific is a lavishly illustrated field guide to some of the huge number of near-shore benthic marine non-vertebrates in this vast area.

Though the work will appeal more to casual visitor/divers and folks who enjoy underwater natural history for it's own sake, there are nuggets of useful, albeit esoteric information and inspiration here for the hobby aquarist as well.

Some of "The Good":

First and foremost, the photographs and their reproduction are excellent. The authors and their fifty donor/quests have amassed a nice collection of the menagerie which are the bottom invertebrates of these seas. Some of the groups represented, e.g. the various worms, sea spiders, live shells, and giant clams are amongst the finest photographic records this reviewer has seen. I especially applaud the efforts of showing organisms in open/closed conditions, such as feeding and resting corals.

Commendable also are the numerous line drawings for clearly showing salient characteristics of a taxon or type.

To their credit the authors have included a descriptive glossary of terms and annotated bibliography for further searching. The Introduction incorporating a review of systematics, phylogeny, what reefs are and the history of our species speculations about them is sufficient and whimsically penned.


Below to save my soul/sole are my further "constructive" suggestions; here I must state what is obvious, grievously wrong. The title; describes "Coral Reef Animals...", but in reality this guide covers only benthic invertebrates; i.e. not fishes, nor "free-living" (swimming, suspended) forms of life. The word animal should be replaced with "invertebrates", "non-vertebrates", and/or some sub-titling on the cover (the inside does add "Animal life from Africa to Hawai'i exclusive of the vertebrates") added to better define the what of the book.

Sizes: especially for the grossly uninitiated, how big/small are the organisms pictured? All manner of close-up, macro and "standard" 35mm photos are offered without indication of the dimensions of what's being shown. What a mistake and great shame. This oversight must be corrected in further editions.


In my worst recurring nightmare I am forced to become a book editor, yet re-working Coral Reef Animals is one task I'd gladly take on. The book would/will be greatly improved by being made less teleological without dumbing down. As an example, the sentence on pg. 1 on the Classification of Animals... "Systematic biologists, scientists who study classification, believe that the classification of organisms should reflect their evolutionary history"; I would gladly drop the "believe..." bit and substitute "attempt (or endeavor) to arrange" the classification "to" reflect their evolutionary history. Ah, much better.

I'd hone a few stated facts; what percentage of all described animal species are vertebrates? This text number, "only about 7%"; my value is somewhat less than half that.

A few additions are warranted: a transitional paragraph and maybe one of those good drawings on the sea fans/gorgonaceae on page 50; a chart or dichotomous key to the four types of corals, the difference between hex-and octocorallian polyps?.

On the same subject, a small illustration, arrow, or circle would help to identify features and creatures in the photographs; forget the sclerites and electron micrographs, and hand a to-be-revised copy to the intended user for input on making this guide real. That the three authors are associated with the CAS (California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco) is obvious; that non-technical readers were not consulted before publication is also painfully so.


Please don't be discouraged by my negative ramblings from perusing a copy of this volume to make up your own mind regarding it's utility. Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific is a beautiful field guide, and full-color and size (8 by 10") picture book that may inspire you, encourage a tropical trip or get you to take up diving.

Other recent Invertebrate works covering the same area:

Allen, G.R. & R. Steene. 1994. Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide. Tropical Reef Research: Singapore.

Colin, P. & C. Arneson. 1995. Tropical Pacific Invertebrates. Coral Reef Press: Beverly Hills.

Thanks to John Jackson, Bookseller Extraordinaire, and Odyssey Publishing for friendship and forwarding me a review copy.


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