Book review: English Wealden fossils, edited by David J Batten

Jon Trevelyan (UK)

The long awaited Palass guide to Wealden fossil flora and fauna has finally arrived and what a magnificent tome it is. At 769 pages and 35 chapters, it is by far the most ambitious and complete of their guides, covering various vertebrate groups, together with invertebrates, plants and stratigraphical descriptions of what can be found on the coast and in the quarries of southern England and the Isle of Wight.

The guide covers the Wealden Supergroup, which is a complex Lower Cretaceous geological unit, laid down between the Berriasian and Aptian of Western Europe. These sediments include various mudstones, siltstones and sandstones, most of which were deposited by meandering rivers as they flowed across floodplain and deltaic environments. And many of these beds are highly fossiliferous, with the dinosaur remains perhaps being the most famous. In this latter respect, the guide does not disappoint – with each of the major dinosaurian groups getting its own chapter and it represents an update to the Dinosaurs of the Isle of Wight guide Palass published in 2011. However, it also covers everything from cockroaches to small mammals and crocodiles to pterosaurs, and this is without even mentioning the chapter on Wealden flora. And, as is always the case, the diagrams and photographs are first rate, with many of them being in colour. I particularly admired the coloured ones of the plants. However, all of the above means this is a rather different creature for previous Palass guides – more text, less pictures and far more ambitious.

While this is the most complete guide to the Wealden ever published, as you read it, there is a feeling of unfinished business, which just goes to show what a vibrant area of ongoing palaeontological research this is. For example, Deposits published an article recently on the important discovery of the Ashdown maniraptoran (see Issue 27), but this is so new that there is no reference to it in the guide.

There is no doubt in my mind that anyone who has an interest in Wealden fossils should get this book and anyone who has more than a passing interest in Dinosaurs should certainly get it. And, at only £24, it is extremely affordable given what it has to offer.

English Wealden fossils, edited by David J Batten, The Palaeontological Association, London (2011). 769 pp., softback, ISBN: 978-1-4443-66711-9 PB

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