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ASBS Newsletter – Book Review

Catalogue of the Benthic Marine Algae of the Indian Ocean

written by Paul C. Silva, Philip I. Basson and Richard L. Moe.

(From ASBS Newsletter Number 97, December 1998)

University of California Publications in Botany vol. 79, xiv + 1259 pp.[errata].
University of California Press, c/o California Princeton Fulfillment Services, 1445 Lower Ferry Road, Princeton, NJ 08618; (Publicity) University of California Press, Publicity Dept., 2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley CA 94720 USA

Price: US$130.00 + p+h of US$38.48 (airmail) [US$12.04 surface mail]

This volume is the culmination of a vast amount of data collecting on the part of the three authors. The volume is dedicated to Professor George Papenfuss who was able to obtain funding for the second author to commence the cataloguing of data referring to the macroalgae of the Indian Ocean. After the death of Prof. Papenfuss, Paul Silva assumed the task of doing the nomenclatural checking. The computer age rapidly overtook the original two authors and as a result Richard Moe took on the task of computerising the records. The final publication is a catalogue which in the printed form occupies over 1200 pages. The authors have collected information recorded for the Indian Ocean on the taxonomy, nomenclature and distribution of five classes of marine benthic algae. These records are from literature that is not just taxonomic in nature and consequently the bibliography itself represents a database of the literature concerning the macroalgal ecology, physiology, and mariculture of algae from this vast area of the planet.

One of the first problems encountered by the authors was how to define the Indian Ocean; there are so many definitions of the Indian Ocean the authors needed an invariable workable set of boundaries. In this volume the Indian Ocean has been defined as the area bounded by Africa (East coast to Cape Agulhas), the southern Indian Ocean island of St. Paul, the western coastline of Australia from West Cape Howe in the south to Cape Londonderry in the north, through to Indonesia via Timor and the southern coasts of Java and Sumatra to Singapore, along the southern coast of Malaysia to the coastlines delimiting the Bay of Bengal, around India and the coast bordering the Arabian sea to the east coasts of Africa.

The first six pages of the publication give a brief but valuable account of the history of exploration in the Indian Ocean with respect to the macro-algae. For those who would never have the need to consult the body of the text this is a comprehensive coverage of marine exploration and should not be ignored. The names of many of the early collectors of algae in the Indian Ocean will be familiar to other plant taxonomists working with angiosperms from the Indian Ocean but the information is especially useful to all marine biologists. This is particularly true for the numerous expeditions that traversed the Ocean during the nineteenth century: during this century the expeditions led by Weber (Siboga), Gardiner (Sealark) and land-based collections of the Stephenson's (in Africa) were important and came before the International Indian Ocean Expedition organised by the UN in the 1950's.

There is a section on the scope and format of the catalogue which sets out the organization of each entry in the body of the text. Since this is a catalogue, the information for each an is primarily nomenclatural, rather than taxonomic. Comments on taxonomic differences that have occurred in the literature are clearly set out. Sometimes taxonomic decisions have been made with which the reader may not agree, but there is no doubt that all the entries are clear, assuming the reader follows the comments through to other citations in the volume.

The systematic catalogue comprises over 70% of the publication. It commences with the Cyanophyceae (pp. 11-78, followed by 7 pages titled 'Reonciliation with Drouetian classification'). The Rhodophyceae follow (pp. 86-558), then the Phaeophyceae (pp. 559-717, the latter page dedicated to a discussion of Pilinia Kuetzing and in which class this genus is placed). The Xanthophyceae (pp. 718-721) are easily missed when skimming through the book; it is followed by the Chlorophyceae (pp. 722-894). Appendix I (pp. 895-909) deals with records from the literature which pertain to taxa recorded only outside the Indian Ocean, e.g. Adenocystis utriciilaris sensu De Toni & Forti from Western Australia and records which are not able to be reconciled with the taxa in the catalogue, e.g. Callithamnion coryrtiboszim senqu Murray from Pakistan (p. 897). As with other publications by Paul Silva (Silva et al. 1987 there is an important appendix (pp. 910-937, Appendix II), entitled 'Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Notes'. It is here that explanations can be found as to why certain decisions were made by the authors. I will not list the taxa covered since they are listed in the abstract (p. xvi). Appendix III (pp. 938-940) is a list of all the nomenclatural new combinations in the catalogue. The Bibliography is extensive and includes publications beyond use cited in the catalogue. It occupies 17% of a published pages and is followed by an index. The errata are surprisingly few for such a huge work.

As a daily user of this publication I have very few criticisms of it. There are the usual apparent inconsistencies, e.g., the entry for Rhabdonia verticillata Harvey under which the conflict between a Sonder (1880) record and the distribution as published by Womersley (1994) is to be found in the body text (p.335); yet a similar entry for Plocamiun costatum (C. Agardh) J. Hooker & Harvey is found in Appendix I (p. 906). The inconsistencies are few in number and minor in effect. One of the nice things to have as a user is the placement of long-forgotten names close to where flie authors think they should reside taxonomically e.g., Halymenia chondricola Sonder var. elongata Sonder (p. 366). These entries are always accompanied by a statement 'The following taxon apparently lies within the circumscription of [NAME] but had not yet been transferred or reduced to synonymy:'. As I indicated, I use this volume daily and have done so for months and I can testify to the strong binding. Inadequate binding can be a real problem when such a large number of pages are bound as a single volume. A World Wide Web version of the text is available but for me not nearly as useful as the published version. On the Web, I cannot have the entry for a taxon up on the screen and then turn to the Bibliography and search for data while entering the reference I need into my bibliographic database. I cannot take the Web version with me wherever I work even though I have excellent internet access. For those who wish to use the data in this book on an occasional basis the web version may suffice.

Reviewer: Roberta Cowan
Research Fellow
School of Biological Sciences & Biotechnology
Murdoch University
Murdoch , WA 6150