Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells (Pliocene and Pleistocene Marine Gastropods)

by Edward J. Petuch, Ph.D. Chicago Spectrum Press, 1994. xii + 394 pages, 20 figures, 1 unnumbered photo, 100 plates, all b/w. $60.00.
Anyone collecting Florida fossils has experienced great frustration trying to put names on his finds using the references available. All those Siphocypraea are rivalled only by the Busyconidae and Melongenidae for forms and variations. But Dr. Edward Petuch, of the Department of Geology, Florida Atlantic University, has done us a great service in pulling them all together in his new Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells. (The Pliocene and Pleistocene gastropods, that is. Eocene and those little Miocene species from the Panhandle are still in limbo for most of us.)

This heavily illustrated reference book is a pleasing 8½" X 11" size, stitched and cloth-bound, and lies open nicely for study at any page. Open it to the Introduction and you have Dr. Petuch's interesting and informative overview of fossil study in Florida, including his own place in this continuum. Open it to the Acknowledgements and you'll see many familiar names, collectors of molluscs both fossil and Recent, who have assisted Dr. Petuch. Open it to Chapter 1, the Lithostratigraphy and Biostratigraphic Nomenclature of the Floridian Plio-Pleistocene, and you're on your way to learning how to tell a Siphocypraea alligator from a Siphocypraea crocodila (maybe). Here Dr. Petuch explains all those formations and units and such that keep a novice collector in a state of confusion. Charts, columns, maps, photos and Dr. Petuch's own charming drawings, called "ecological block" drawings, aid in our learning process. Chapters 2 and 3 Cover "Faunal Types" and "Chronologically-Equivalent Units and Faunas."

There follows Chapter 4, the 100 plates, containing over 1,100 photographs arranged taxonomically by families, Most of these photos are clear and identifiable, though there is much room here for improvement. In many cases it is difficult to distinguish important details of the specimens illustrated, or even to tell one species from another. The photo reproduction process used is part of the problem. Figure captions are helpful, listing name, author, date, size, abbreviation for the unit(s) in which it occurs, and collecting locality. Coverage is broad: 29 species of cowries, 41 Olividae, 73 cones, and so on.

Chapter 5 is the "Systematic Section." Here, 283 new species are described, (holotypes of all new taxa are deposited in the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville) as well as 10 new genera and two new subfamilies. For each new species, a description is given, followed by holotype information, Type Locality, Remarks (including comparisons of the new species to other similar species) and an Etymology.

A list of plates, a list of new taxa, a six-page list of literature cited and used, and an index conclude the Atlas. The index is arranged alphabetically by genera, which makes finding a species difficult if the genus is unfamiliar (or new). This book is, without a doubt, a more satisfying, better rounded fossil guide than have been any of his previous works. It is going to make fossil collecting in Florida a lot more fun. But at a high price. We can only wish that Dr. Petuch had been introduced to Dr. Conklin's publisher.