Book review: Fossils of the Gault Clay (Palaeontological Association Field Guide to Fossils No 12), edited by Jeremy R Young, Andrew S Gale, Robin I Knight and Andrew B Smith

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

It is always exciting when PalAss publishes a new field guide to fossils. However, their last (Silurian Fossils of the Pentland Hills, Scotland, Field Guide to Fossils No. 11), despite being of the expected quality, suffered from being somewhat esoteric in its subject matter. This one, number 12 in the series, is back on form and, like their guide to the chalk (No. 2) is for ‘cenomaniacs’, this is likely to be the constant companion for anyone, who (like me) loves the Gault Clay.

Like others in the series, it has the usual excellent black and white photographs of beautifully prepared specimens. Each chapter is authored by a specialist in the relevant subject, containing an introduction, followed by detailed systematic descriptions of each specimen.

However, after the beautifully produced Ammonites & other Cephalopods of the Lower Cretaceous Albion of the South East of England (Fred Clouter, published by The Medway Fossil & Mineral Society) was published in 2007, is there a need for another guide to the Gault? The answer is that this publication (as always with the PalAss guides) is a more academic piece. It covers the full range of fossils to be found in the Gault of the entire UK, whereas Fred’s book is more populist and limited in range (to cephalopods and the southeast). Therefore, for the keen amateur as well as the professional, there are good reasons to have both publications on the shelf.

If I have one criticism, it is that geologists, including many of those who contributed to this excellent tome, use a private language that is unintelligible to anybody outside of the geological ‘elite’ or not in possession of a geological dictionary. I believe it is time to acknowledge that the academic language of geologists is often unnecessary and counterproductive. One contributor, who does not fall into this trap, is Deposits’ own Neale Monks, who authors the chapter on heteromorph ammonites. I wonder if there is any connection.

Fossils of the Gault Clay: Palaeontological Association Field Guide to Fossils No 12, edited by Jeremy R Young, Andrew S Gale, Robin I Knight and Andrew B Smith, The Palaeontological Association, London (2010), ISBN: 978-1444335422

Available from UKGE: Fossils of the Gault Clay

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