Book review – Indian Ocean Reef Guide
INDIAN OCEAN REEF GUIDE
Maldives-Sri Lanka-Thailand-South Africa-Mauritius-
By H. Debelius
Published by ConchBooks,
Harxheim, Germany, 2013. 321pp. Price 39.80€
This book deals with all range of marine animals to be found in the Indian Ocean, molluscs, corals, crustaceans, other marine invertebrates, cartilaginous fish, bony fish, reptiles, and mammals . It covers the Indian Ocean and its rim, from the eastern coast of Africa, to Sri Lanka, Thailand and the western coast of Sumatra. Differently from other reef guides, which tend to be limited in their scope, or overly technical, this book is well balanced. The marine animals dealt with are referred both by their common and scientific names to aid those wanting to do further research. This is a comprehensive publication regarding the animal groups of this part of the world. In stating this, I must admit my personal interest. The reviewer is an enthusiastic scientist and diver who has explored the whole Indian Ocean with his camera for such a long time.
The expected users of this guide are the ichthyologists and marine biologists in general, but the whole content of the book will appeal to fish taxonomists in particular. The book is fascinating and the strength of this guide lies in its detailed and high quality colour photographs and other biological data. The foreword by the well-known systematic ichthyologist, Dr Philip Heemstra, highlights the content of this book to be of a high scientific standard. I have personally communicated with Dr. Heemstra during the identification of some fish species collected from the Arabian Sea coast of Oman; he is a world-renowned enthusiastic scientist.
It has been separated into four main sections, introduction, species accounts, bibliography and indices of scientific and common names. An additional small section contains fish famous stories like the Indian Ocean largest fish, the sharks significant for the Maldives, the Latimeria and some other interesting stories. In the Introduction, the author briefly describes the Indian Ocean region and specifically their coral reefs. He also considers the common threats to this part of the ocean, which include overfishing, dynamite or cyanide fishing, oil spills, bleaching of corals and the recent global rise in temperature.
The bulk of the book is devoted to species accounts that aim to illustrate, identify, describe in illustrations and outline the distribution and biology of each species. It starts with an introduction to each major taxonomic group and provide colour images of each species presented. For some species, more than one picture is given to depict geographical variation as they have been sighted in different localities, which is one of the strong points of the book. The book lists over 900 species of marine organisms, belonging to ten marine animal groups: cnidarians (21 families), flatworms (1 family), molluscs (30 families), crustaceans (18 families), echinoderms (11 families), cartilaginous fishes (15 families), bony fishes (63 families), reptiles (3 families), and mammals (2 families). The author cast his attention evenly as far as possible on the animal groups dealt with in this book. An understanding of the distribution and biology of the species as components of the distinct ecosystems across the Indian Ocean as described in the species accounts section, is an obvious prerequisite for any ecological management plan for these areas. The famous fish stories in this book provide an educational reading, constituting a variety of small accounts on the conservation and behaviour of several marine organisms that have been attracting man´s attention over the centuries. I personally particularly enjoyed the texts on Latimeria and on the Indian Ocean largest fishes. Finally, the bibliography section is unexpectedly short and contains some of the main references treating the different marine animal groups covered by the book. As a fish taxonomist that has worked in Oman, I found this book most helpful in the process of fish identifications. The author unfortunately did not included IUCN criteria for conservation status in the species accounts, which in my opinion is an important piece of information. Also, a good addition to an eventual new edition of this guide would be to include identification keys. The book has an attractiveness and simplicity of format that has ensured its position as a top-selling fish identification guide. It is a very useful book and should be of great help to those interested in marine fish species, from amateurs to professionals enjoying the fascination of Indian Ocean diversity. The arrangement of the book is well suited to both laboratory and field work, although I would suggest a waterproof paper for the next edition or a special edition to further enhance its utility. The layout and quality of the publication live up to the high standard we have come to expect from the publisher and its relatively low price ensures that readers will find the book to be excellent value for money.
Laith A. Jawad
4, Tin Turn place, Flat Bush, Manukau,
Auckland, New Zealand