The Marine Mollusks of the Galapagos Islands: a documented faunal list
by Yves Finet Geneva, 1994. 180 pp. Softcover, 8.25" x 11.25". $24 U.S.
Marine Molluscs of the Galapagos No. 1 Gastropods: A monograph and revision of the families Haliotidae, Scissurellidae, Fissurellidae and Lottiidae
by Yves Finet. Ancona, Italy, 1994. 110 pp., 10 text figs., 26 color plates. Hardbound, 8.25" x 11.75". About $45 U.S.
Marine Molluscs of the Galapagos No. 2 Gastropods:A monograph and revision of the families Trochidae, Skeneidae, Turbinidae and Nertitidae
by Yves Finet. Ancona, Italy, 1995. 139 pp., 10 text figs., 27 color and 10 b/w plates. Hardbound, 8.25" x 11.75". About $70 U.S.
Yves Finet's trio of books are best considered as a unit, the opening works of a series of monographs and revisions he plans for the marine mollusks of the Galapagos, a study which he says represents "much of my life's story and project." Finet is Research Officer and Curator of Mollusks at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva (Switzerland) and Scientific Associate at the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium in Brussels. The project, to which he is devoting so much of himself and of the resources of his institution and those of his contributors, was first outlined and undertaken by Leo G. Hertlein, before his death in 1972 to "grant marine mollusks the place they deserve in the existing knowledge of the biological environment of the Archipelago."
The softbound Marine Mollusks of the Galapagos Islands: a documented faunal list (an updated version of earlier lists, 1985 and 1991, now partly obsolete) must be considered first: it delineates the framework and establishes the validity of the fauna to be reviewed in subsequent revisions. No study of molluscan fauna of the Galapagos should be done without reference to this work. It documents 718 species (655 of them from shallow water) through the literature, museum specimens and private collections, with attention to references in old literature; another 228 species are considered doubtful or spurious. Finet says he will try to keep this list updated until a revision is necessary.
An interesting aspect of this list is its comment upon the vaunted molluscan endemism of these isolated islands. According to the data from Keen (1971) endemic species account for an amazing 42%; however, Finet's current list drops this number to 20%, indeed only 16% when shallow water species alone are considered. The list, with its references, makes up the bulk of the volume. Fourteen pages of references and an index conclude the book.
The second and third books contain monographs and revisions of the first eight families of the Recent Archaeogastropoda, four to a volume. In style they are a compromise, Finet says, between "the seriousness and sternness of a scientific revision" and the attractive look of a colorful popular book. Indeed it is one "popular" aspect of these works that strikes the collector first: their photographs! This reviewer has always maintained that, when studying or identifying a species, there is no substitute for actually holding the shell in question in one's own hand, weighing it, appreciating the texture and color and the light striking its curves and planes. Finet's magnificent camerawork and the superb printing have very nearly negated this view. The color photographs are so clear and the magnification is so suitable to each shell being depicted that it's as if the actual shell lay there on the page, and one had but to lift it into one's hand and turn it this way and that. He has set a new standard in shell illustration. Quarter-inch emarginulas reveal all their secrets, as do 1.7mm Eulithidium diantha (McLean, 1970) Even the SEM photos of radulas are brighter, clearer than the usual.
Six hauntingly beautiful views of various Galapagan shore habitats join them. Unfortunately, these same views are repeated in both volumes, as is the Galapagos map and the introduction. But monographs are not usually sold as a set, so this repetition will be useful for perusers of a single volume. And Finet says this is likely to change in subsequent monographs.
Following this short introduction (with charts) describing natural influences on Galapagan molluscan life, the revision of the species begins. A full treatment is given each species, including citations and synonymy, type material and locality, original description in the original language and in English if necessary, and distribution and material examined. After each family treatment is an identification key to that family, and then the plates corresponding to that family.
Granted, these scholarly but very friendly works are expensive, and the pricing trend seems to be upward. But they are produced with excellent workmanship and popular appeal, and so they are expensive to publish. They are not likely to be big sellers, individually, because of the narrowness of scope of each volume. Also they are being funded by the Geneva Museum and private donors. So the buyer must expect to pay premium prices and support his share of the expense. But any collector who makes this investment will be lastingly pleased with the quality of the product, as well as the scholarship. We can't wait to see the next monograph. There is no word on the topic. Yves Finet has indicated that taxonomic order will not necessarily be his guide.