Shells

Shells

by Philippe Bouchet
     
 

More than just an appreciation of shells, this book captures all the artistry of theundersea world. Prized since ancient times for their beauty, shells appear in Mexicantemple art, on Greek and Roman vases, in Renaissance paintings and architecturalsculpture, and in modern jewelry and furniture. The artists themselves are thousandsof species of mollusks, which

Overview

More than just an appreciation of shells, this book captures all the artistry of theundersea world. Prized since ancient times for their beauty, shells appear in Mexicantemple art, on Greek and Roman vases, in Renaissance paintings and architecturalsculpture, and in modern jewelry and furniture. The artists themselves are thousandsof species of mollusks, which produce shells of infinite shapes and sizes: the polished,the patinated, and the peculiar. From porcelain cones and miters to coleus and whirls,the collector's favorites account for barely five percent of known species (mollusks arethe second largest phylum after arthropods), and it is possible we haven't even discoveredhalf of them. They are abundant and widespread, living from the Arctic to theAntarctic, in oceans and in streams, ponds, and lakes on every continent. They havebeen discovered on high Himalayan peaks, in bleak deserts, and on sandy beaches aswell as in shallow lagoons and water as deep as 21,00 feet. The marvelous collectionof shells featured here is both a celebration and a scientific investigation.Philippe Bouchet's writing is rich with the flavors of malacology, bringing in examplesof biodiversity, the threats from anthropogenic pressure, and the important scientificand patrimonial role played by natural history museums, which are invaluableconservatories. We follow the author and his team in their exploration work, samplingand sifting, on board the French Institute for Research and Development vessel, off thecoast of New Caledonia.The author writes that 'Most of the time, you may not recognize a shell but it doesnot mean it's necessarily a new species.' It can take several years for the small communityof international experts to be certain of a new discovery. It is just as difficult towork out which species are rare and which are threatened with extinction, as they defyhuman jurisdiction. With a true sense of wonderment, he discusses how incredible it isthat in the twenty-first century (an age of genetics, nanotechnology, and advancedspace exploration), a number of species of plants, animals, and fungi on the surface ofthe planet (let alone beneath the waves) remain 'undiscovered,' unstudied and/orunnamed.This fascinating text with its amazing images is ideal for shell collectors, naturalhistory buffs, and admirers of great photography books.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780789209894
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/29/2008
Pages:
168
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 12.40(h) x 0.90(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Shells


By Philippe Bouchet, Gilles Mermet

Abbeville Press

Copyright © 2008 Philippe Bouchet
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0989-4


A taxonomist analyzes the characters that are unique to each species. These are the very characters that serve to delimit the species or in other words to define it. In addition, the job of the taxonomist is also to look for characters that are shared with other species, because it is these that will help to place them in a particular clade. The classification is organized in hierarchical that correspond to body structures with increasing levels of dissimilarity. Species are grouped together in genera, genera in families, families in orders, orders in classes, and classes in phyla. Mollusks, as we have seen above, are phylum: the Mollusca. The Arthropods (crustaceans, Insects, spiders, scorpions and so on), the Cnidaria (containing sea anemones, jellyfish, corals, sea fans and so on), and the Echinodermata (sea urchins starfish, brittle stars and so on), are phyla. Within the phylum Mollusca, taxonomists recognize eight classes of gastropods, bivalves (also known as lamellibranchs), scaphopods, polyplacophores (or chitons), cephalopods, monoplacophores, solenogasters, caudofoveates (these last two are sometimes grouped together under the name aplocophores). Gastropods, literally meaning "crawling on their stomach," are by far the most diverse class, with over 400 families containing 75,000 species of snails and slugs.
In view of these colossus numbers, no single book can cover all the species of mollusks, or even all the species of seashells. Even before Linnaeus, naturalists tried to produce comprehensive monographs that would include all species known at the time. Linnaeus needed only just over a hundred pages of his Systema Natunae to list and describe the 700 species of shells known to him. Sixty years later, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) needed two volumes of Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertebres( Natural history of animals without backbones) to cover the 3,000 species that had been described by then.

(Continues...)

Excerpted from Shells by Philippe Bouchet, Gilles Mermet. Copyright © 2008 Philippe Bouchet. Excerpted by permission of Abbeville Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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