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Sources: Two Beautiful Corals\Reef Books

Coral Reefs, Nature's Richest Realm. 

Roger Steene. 1990. Mallard

Press, New York. 336 pgs. @$40.00

Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific

 J. E. N. Veron. 1986.

Angus & Robertson Publishers, London. 644 pgs. @$50.00

Bob Fenner  

Both of these works on stony, or Scleractinian corals, represent nature and our species appreciation of it at it's best; in two dissimilar "ways of knowing". The former (Steene's) as pure visual stimulation pleasure; the latter as a systematic survey of all described forms. Both are profusely illustrated with hundreds of beautiful color photographs. Veron's opus is more replete with scientific data describing differences/similarities between species, genera, families...of scleractinian corals. The two are excellent in their own ways/domain. They make for enjoyable and inspirational viewing for reef or marine keepers as well as earnest diving/travelers to the Australasian regions and nature apprecionists (hey, is this a new word or what?).

Steene/Coral Reefs:

Three hundred plus color plates, fish and invertebrates of E. Africa, Red Sea, Indian, Pacific, Tropical Atlantic & Indo-Pacific Oceans. About twenty years of the best photography of Roger Steene, common co-hort of Gerald Allen of many-a piece/book on aquarium topics (Damselfishes, Angels & Butterflies, Rainbowfishes...). There is a very nice (tribute) introduction by Walter Starck II of National Geographic underwater photography fame, owner operator of the fun/research vessel "Torito"...

"The richness of life on reefs today is a hoard accumulated over a vast span of time and space, brought together by the drift of ocean currents and even continents". Ahhhh. Starck goes on eloquently dismissing reef communities as "fragile" instead making an apt analogy of their redundant adaptabilities in comparison with computer technology (reefs win).

Unorthodox contents include such items as People of the Reef (human skulls, etc.), Meeting of Colleaques, & some nice technical notes on photo details.

Though Steene readily admits he is no biologist (he's a businessman) and the book is sprinkled with a smattering of "errors", it makes a wonderful gift of a "coffee-table book" for those interested in reef life in all it's awesome beauty. The graphics are...breath-taking. Some fishes are presented for the first time and there is a very nice mix of the rest of the large and small of what a diver/aquarist might find on/in the reef.

Suggested Errata:

Though I found the introductions treatment of symbiotic relations to be succinct and suitably entertaining/educational I do object to the statement (p. 24) "Both commensalism and mimicry are highly specialized modes of life in which one creature has totally (emphasis mine) adapted to another." I'd substitute to some degree for "totally" as more appropriate/accurate.

Page 94; the photo of a reef squid is inverted; big deal, turn the book upside down. On pg. 135, the genus Sepia should be italicized.

Some more specific identification of mixed organisms/photo and approximate size indication methinks would have offered clarity without clutter. How 'bout LARGER, BOLDER type? Commentary offered at the end of the book would have served better on the pages it described...Unlabeled photos at the beginning and end are gorgeous but what, where are they?

Page 180. Venomous cheek spine in a squirrel fish? I don't thinks so- painful yes, venomous no. Similarly p. 181 lionfish possess venom, not poison (venom more specifically if you touch, poison if you ingest). Picky, picky.

No references of suggested reading offered? What gives?

Veron's book is an embellished version of his doctoral thesis on stony corals in and around Australia. Unlike Steene's book, here we are solely focused on corals; principally their identification and classification.

There are insights here for the humble aquarist however. Veron borrows upon powerful photography friends to present (along with his own) copious notes on nomenclature, distribution and abundance on structure and biology. Textual inclusions comprise humble acknowledgements, general notes on corals and use of the book, a nifty overview on coral reefs ala Darwin, coral communities description and placement, a great brief section on coral biology. I would be remiss to not mention the spectacular drawings by Geoff Kelly in the Structure and Classification section and elsewhere; I finally can understand (more) of the intricatices of the corallite skeletons' thecas, septa,...calcium carbonate crystal homes. Thank-you Mr. Kelly.

The main body (pp. 63-596) of the treatise is occupied by a family to genus to species review of reef-building (hermatypic) scleractinia. Each are graced by one or more photographs, distribution maps; and notes on type species, fossil record, number of species, physical characteristics and related/similar-appearing genera. Notes on the describer, date of scientific description, color and abundance are offered. Keys to genera and species and interesting historical notes, mainly regarding classification concerns are included.

Non-reefal Australian Scleractinia including deep-water forms and non-scleractinian corals make up the rest of the book, with final short chapters on fossil history and biogeography. There is a useful glossary and index, but what (!?) no references again? I don't believe it!

I looked and looked for "booboos", couldn't find any technical errors save for a mis-spelling of species (speices) p. 630.

Traveling to go coral/reef watching, especially in the area of the "land down-under"? Take a gander @ this book. Reading "between the lines" would well-serve the wanna be reef akvarist.


Starck again: "Coral reefs include life's most awesome creation. They are truly life's cathedrals...They confront one with a potent mixture of exquisite beauty, fascinating history & functioning, profound insights into life...(a) spiritual,...ineffable feeling of unity with life. Reefs give us a close up look at the infinite, the beauty and timelessness of being and our own inextricable involvement in the whole".

Check these works out at your local (large) library or fancy-schmancy bookstore. Buy them for yourself and/or an interested friend's enjoyment. They are large and colorful format.

These books are state of the art in in well written, profusely illustrate, beautifully produced representations. 

Corals of Australia and the Indo-Pacific   3/19/06  J. E. N. Veron. 1986. Angus & Robertson Publishers, London. 644 pgs. @$50.00 where can this be bought from? Valerie@ countrychick@sucocoopwb.com South-central Kansas


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