By Bob Goemans
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Reef Life, Natural History And Behaviors Of Marine Fishes And Invertebrates

Authored by: Denise Nielsen Tackett & Larry Tackett

A book review by Bob Goemans

TITLE: Reef Life, Natural History And Behaviors Of Marine Fishes And Invertebrates

AUTHOR: Denise Nielsen Tackett & Larry Tackett

PUBLISHER: T.F.H. Publications/Microcosm (2002)

ISBN 1-890087-56-4 (SC)

ISBN 1-890087-55-6 (HC)

PAGES: 224

PRICE: $29.95 (Softcover)

PRICE: $39.95 (Hardcover)

A truly outstanding book! Crammed with hundreds of excellent quality color photographs and up to date information in a well organized/well written text. And if that sounds similar to the many books you've seen lately, you'll be pleasantly surprised to know this work goes far beyond those to be expected standards! Not only do those qualities exist, this most excellent work of art far surpasses all others in your library because it presents a different perspective on the marine life that encompasses our beloved reefs.

Reef Life is based on close-up observations combined with excellent underwater photography along with input from leading marine biologists, ichthyologists, zoologists, and reef aquarists. It goes far beyond what most divers, snorkelers and aquarists see as general reef life. It goes to the heart of the ecosystem - the interaction between various organisms both small and large.

The work begins with the authors thanking those that helped to bring their vision to the following pages. Directly after the 'Acknowledgements' a short 'Foreword' by Ronald L. Shimek, Ph.D., sets the stage for what can be expected throughout the book. Since Ron's expertise falls into the world of benthic creatures, his insight into the biology and vast importance of these organisms is a welcomed addition to this work and helps get the reader headed in the right direction. A Prologue titled 'Reef Exploration' follows and provides an introduction to nature's most diverse ecosystem - reefs. It's actually the beginning of a journey that began with the authors wedding and took this husband and wife team on the trail of certain sponges for anti-cancer causing compounds. Their sponge collecting 'honeymoon' lasted 13 years! And their photographic results are a treasure to behold.

There are eight chapters, with Chapter 1 'Reef Origins' discussing reef formation, reef parameters, its three realms, species involvement, competition for space, reef builders, and the regions in the world that support these structures. Chapter 2 'Reef Dwellers' provides an introduction to and overview of the profound diversity of reef life. From there to those that live in 'Near-Reef Habitats' (Chapter 3) the world of life existing in sand, silt, and mangroves is discussed. I found this chapter especially interesting because many aquarists are trying to duplicate these ecosystems, such as seagrass beds, mangrove areas, and macroalgae/estuary-like areas. For those that want to move away from the 'norm' you will find this chapter quite informative. Chapter 4 'Living Together' defines the relationships among its diverse creatures. Eye opening would be my first comment! Its systematic approach is easy to follow and the reader will come away impressed with the special association among certain species. Chapter 5 'Feeding Time' takes the reader into the world of nourishment and the vast intricacies that come with finding sustenance, either knowingly or unknowingly. Going hand-in-hand with that is 'Protection & Defense' which is Chapter 6. Survival, as it pertains to the vast assemblage of creatures inhabiting reef and near-reef areas, is seen in both physical and behavioral adjustments. Even though the section on chemical defenses was quite short, many will find it quite interesting. Fitting right in with survival techniques, the ability to camouflage oneself or appear as something more freighting is a fairly well known capacity among many species. Chapter 7, 'Masquerade' goes into mimicry and camouflage. The photos that accompany it are without question, exceptional! Chapter 8, 'Reproduction' provides a wide-angle view to the going struggle associated with perpetuating the species, whether that be fishes or invertebrate. It could well increase your appreciation for many of the species that now call your aquarium home!

A very interesting addition to this book, is an Epilogue titled 'Disappearing Reefs.' There are not many in this world that are not aware our reefs are under attack by both the forces of man and nature. There is no doubt over-fishing, dredging, over-harvesting of live rock, poorly planned shoreline developments, and various pollution threats have and still are endangering delicate reef ecosystems. The authors quite admirably state their view, and I, a long-term Sierra Club member agree that more needs to be done. Aquarists, environmentalists, corporations, and governments must work together and develop a sensible plan to protect what remain and still ensure a flow of "product" from the wild. I'm sure that's possible. The work closes with a Glossary, Bibliography, Index, and About the Authors.

In conclusion, 'Reef Life, Natural History And Behaviors Of Marine Fishes And Invertebrates' is a well-written, informative, and beautifully illustrated publication. No matter what your passion for keeping marine animals, you should own this book. Knowing the interconnecting aspects of reef ecology will not only benefit your present aquarium, it will broaden your horizon as to natures intricacies. Without which we humans might still be a single cell organism struggling in an ammonium filled atmosphere.

T.F.H. Publications and Microcosm have teamed up to present a most elegant publication. It's truly a win-win situation for all.

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