Seashells of Southern Florida, Living Marine Mollusks of the Florida Keys and Adjacent Regions: Bivalves

by Paula M. Mikkelsen & Rüdiger Bieler, 2008. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, pp. 503, over 1,500 color illustrations and photographs

This is a truly marvelous book that raises the bar by quite a few notches for molluscan reference books. The authors have established the “gold standard” with a book that “…provides the most thorough treatment of living mollusks in this region ever written.” (Gary Rosenberg, Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia)

There are 59 bivalve families covered, and each one includes a description of the family, the natural history of the family, fossil origins, the anatomy (with color illustrations presenting the anatomy of the animal within the shell), color photographs of each of the species found in southern Florida (with many in situ images of the living animal in its natural environment), and a full reference citation for the family. This breadth and depth of coverage is done for each family, in essence a complete monograph for each of the 59 families. Much of the information is presented here for the first time. “Seashells of Southern Florida” is a reference book that will prove valuable to professionals interested in Mollusca or Florida fauna, as well as amateurs looking for the best possible identification guide.

The description of each family covers the biology of that family (and how it relates to other families of bivalves) to a degree that would normally be found in a specialized biology monograph. Each species photograph is of a specimen deposited in a permanent museum collection. A section at the back of the book lists each species photographed, the shell dimensions, locality, and the museum where the specimen can be found. This is undoubtedly more information than many collectors think they want, but it will prove useful to professionals and many amateurs will find themselves going back to answer specific questions or fill in gaps of knowledge as they become more interested in a particular species or family. Readers will find there is an almost unbelievable variety in which the different bivalves cope with their environment and compete with other inhabitants.

The final section is an illustrated (in color of course) glossary! If you are reading about the Nuculidae and wonder what exactly is meant by the term “palp pouch,” just turn to the glossary. There you will find the definition accompanied by a color illustration. This feature alone is worth the price of the book. “Seashells of Southern Florida” is sure to become a standard textbook.

This last paragraph is where a reviewer will throw in a complaint or two about an otherwise good book, just to prove the review was balanced and thorough. Not this time. This book deserves any and all superlatives. Buy it. You will be very glad you did. There are an additional two volumes planned for this series, gastropods and other mollusks (I assume). Both will be eagerly awaited and I have a spot already reserved for both in my library.

--Tom Eichhorst