Contributed by Tim Hochgrebe
The long awaited 'Nudibranchs Encyclopedia - Catalogue of Asia and Indo-Pacific Sea Slugs' by Neville Coleman has finally arrived and what an encyclopedia it is!After his previous bestseller '1001 Nudibranchs', there are a few differences that immediately stand out.
Neville has made the excellent decision to publish this massive book as a hardcover, and with its over 400 pages it really needs to be. The hardcover makes the book more professional and naturally it will last longer in any diver's library. He still managed to keep the book quite compact in its dimensions (160 x 235 mm) and for nudibranch fans this will still fit into their travel case.
In comparison to '1001 Nudibranchs' where the individual images were generally quite small, this book has a maximum of 8 images per page and the beauty of the photographs becomes much clearer. After all, it is the amazing colours and shapes that makes most people so attracted to these strange critters.
What I really like about this book is that Neville devoted the first 30 or so pages to nudibranch biology, which makes this book much more than just a reference book to identify that strange new nudibranch you found on your last dive.
He talks about the different habitats where nudibranchs are found and also how to find them. He explains how they see, smell, hear, taste and feel and all with beautiful photographs to illustrate each fact. There are some excellent sections on nudibranch behaviour, including tailing of individuals, burrowing and mantle flapping behaviour and of course nudibranch sex and defence. In his typical emotional style of writing he manages to draw the reader into the passion and excitement that these critters bring to his life. This makes the book much less 'dry' than many of the books written by scientific 'purists'.
Another difference to his previous nudibranch publications is the fact that he openly invited many nudibranch lovers from around the world to contribute their findings and images to this book and it is great to see how many people share the passion and enjoy finding new and previously unseen species and behaviour. By accepting other people's contributions, the scope of the book has certainly widened and the quality of the imagery has improved as there were more images to chose from. Over 3000 images are contained in this work which makes it the most comprehensive publication on nudibranchs in the world. And since it focusses solely on Asia and Indo-Pacific Sea Sea Slugs it is clear that this book is to become 'the bible' for slug lovers diving this region of the planet.
Neville sticks to his guns when it comes to the common name / scientific name discussion and whichever side of the fence you're on you have to give him credit for trying to make the discovery and study of nudibranchs more palatable to the non-scientists of the diving community. Common names are a great way to ease yourself into a topic that is indeed very complicated. Every day scientists decide to move a nudibranch from one genus or family to another based on new findings like the outcome of genetic studies. So whether you prefer the scientific naming or the common naming philosophy, Neville's book tries to include both and despite being a scientist myself I have to agree with his statement that '(...) the only way by which humans will ever understand nature, is if they can relate to, and recognise its existence.'
The main 'competitor' of Neville's new book, would be the brandnew book by Helmut Debelius and Rudi Kuiter titled 'Nudibranchs of the World'. This book is much larger in size (210 x 280 mm) and therefore quite a bit heavier.
Another hard cover book that highlights the amazing interest that has been generated in the diving community to discover, photograph and identify these curious animals. The book is puplished by the German publisher Ikan and people that have seen the other marine ID books published by Ikan know of the excellent print quality and well designed layout of these books. 'Nudibranchs of the World' feels more like a coffee table book of nudibranchs than a reference book, the imagery is stunning and the way the photos are presented on each page is very well thought through.
Neville decided to sort the slugs in his book by showing ophistobranch (non-nudibrach) families first, followed by true nudibranchs and each area sorted alphabetically by families. In comparison 'Nudibranchs of the World' only covers true nudibranchs and sorts them in a more evolutionary / scientific manner and has an introductory section to each family that highlights the specific features that differentiate each family from the others. Over a third of the Debelius / Kuiter book focusses of the family Chromodoridae and it is amazing to see the regional colour variations in some species.
To purchase your own copy of these books have a look at the book section of the underwater shop.