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Book Review: by RMF

Soft Corals and Sea Fans


A comprehensive guide to the tropical shallow water genera of the central-west Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea


By Katharina Fabricius and Philip Alderslade



Australian Institute of Marine Science,Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Dimensions: 7 X 9 ?"

272 pages

700+ color photos



Available through Sea Challengers (.com)

Here is a much-needed guide to more than 22 families, 90 genera of soft corals ans sea fans found in shallow waters of the West-Central Pacific, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. This work provides clear identification through underwater and aquarium photographs, drawings and renderings of microscopic skeletal elements, but is much more than a field guide. Here is also a good review of the biology and ecology of these stinging-celled animals. For serious marine reef aquarists, underwater natural history buffs, students and academics alike.


A list of families and genera is succinctly introduced in "An overview of the classification system" with (thankfully) a description of technical terms as they occur. Issues of debate like current trends in higher taxonomy of the group are dealt with handily. Issues such as reproduction/propagation, nutrition (feeding/photosynthesis), ecology (physical environment, currents, light, nutrients, sedimentation, salinity, temperature, natural and human-induced disturbance… Chemical Ecology… including issues of protection and sic defence, anti-feeding substances, interactions with other species, anti-fouling substances, allelopathic substances, internal sunscreens, complementary metabolites used in reproduction, chemical taxonomy, bioprospecting are covered quickly but with clarity and accompanied by useful images and graphics.

The bulk of the book is otherwise dedicated to a systematic review of the families and genera and their identification, including gross and polyp appearance, skeletal elements, color, habitat and abundance, zoogeographic distribution and (importantly) similarity to other Indo-Pacific genera.

Of Particular Interest to Aquarists:

Are sections on "Techniques for Examining and Identifying an Octocoral Colony", "Choice of Octocorals for a Coral Reef Aquarium" and for diver/aquarists, "Surveying Octocoral Communities"… as well as a recurring theme of the nature (chemical and physical) of these organisms in the wild… and by extension into the small recirculating volumes which are our aquariums.


As a guide to the soft corals and sea fans of the shallow west Pacific tropics to the Red Sea this work ranks as most current and best put together for its purposes. As humans the "what" of descriptive cognizance is utmost in importance… One must know the name of something (in common) before venturing to describe matters of "how"… Are you a LFS owner/manager, advanced reef aquarist who keeps these groups of cnidarians? I would definitely have/use a copy of this work.

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