Owen R. Green, Kluwer Academic Publishers £85 / €125, ISBN 0-412-58980-X
Micropalaeontologists should not be put off by the title of this 538-page manual. In his introduction, the author makes no apology for his apparent bias towards micropalaeontological techniques, stating that it is always more convenient to modify a technique towards extraction for macrofossils than visa versa. The manual is drawn from Owen Green’s extensive experiences at South London College, Goldsmith’s College, University of London and currently at the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford. The manual is divided into three sections with an introduction, a section on field techniques and finally the bulk of the work concerns laboratory techniques. Obviously, a manual is not written to be read cover to cover, so I decided to test the author’s assertion that it can be used to answer two basic questions:
- How do I carry out a certain procedure?
- I want to examine a fossil of a known composition from a rock. What procedure should I use?
The section headings are well thought out and can easily be followed to the relevant section. There are many techniques that involve similar processes and the manual cross-references these well, navigating the reader clearly to the relevant parts of the manual. In this respect, the manual certainly answers these two questions. As a phosphatic micropalaeontologist, I decided to look in more detail at some of the technique entries under phosphatic fossil extraction. Obviously, each worker has their own method for carrying out their sample preparation but I found it strange to be told that the acetic acid needs to be decanted every 8 hours and that rock must be treated in smaller quantities than for the formic acid technique. Lennart Jeppsson’s lab in Lund, Sweden regularly processes large samples of many tens of kilograms to enable representative conodont faunas to be extracted. Jeppsson’s more recent paper (Jeppsson et al. 1999) advocates the use of large sample sizes and monitoring of the procedure by taking regular Eh/Ph readings. Having said this, the manual certainly challenges the reader to think about how their laboratory techniques can be refined. The section on laboratory design and layout is a useful contribution on which very little has been published previously. Health and safety information is given throughout and this has been emphasised in bold or by the use of text boxes. However, I was shocked to see the suggestion that concentrated HF can be used in the field to etch the surfaces of siliceous rocks and check for the presence of siliceous microfossils.
While thoroughly recommending this book, I do feel that the length and subsequent price of the volume is rather off putting. The book is eminently suitable for the professional and interested amateur alike but I suspect that prospective buyers will think twice about paying 85 GBP. The fold out flow charts are a useful addition but may have added to the costs of producing the book. I was slightly surprised by the choice of flow charts given fold out status. The diatom processing flow chart was allocated a normal A4 page whereas the non-routine palynological processing flow chart was reproduced on a fold out but could easily have been reproduced on a normal page or as a list of stages. There are a number of repetitions that add to the length of the book. Each section in the manual has a reference section following it and I found this particularly helpful. However, some references, for example, Brunton et al (1985) and Brasier (1980) are repeated in many section reference lists and then again in the main reference section that contains a complete list of references in larger font. There are not many recent references cited but this simply shows that this type of work is not published as often in the current academic climate. This serves to further emphasise the importance of Green’s contribution.
Brasier, M. D. 1980. Microfossils. Allen and Unwin, London, 193 pp.
Brunton, C. H. C., Besterman, T. P. and Cooper, J. A. 1985. Guidelines for the curation of Geological materials. Miscellaneous Publication of the Geological Society of London, 17.
Jeppsson L., Anehus R. and Fredholm D. 1999. The optimal acetate buffered acetic acid technique for extracting phosphatic fossils. Journal of Paleontology, 73 (5), 964-972.