Book review: Scottish Fossils, by Nigel H Trewin

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Jon Trevelyan (UK)

Scotland has been the source of many important fossil discoveries, from the first ever soft body parts of the conodont animal, to Devonian fishes and early tetrapods. Yet, apart from a very good book on Silurian fossils by PalAss (‘Silurian Fossils of the Pentland Hill, Scotland’, edited by Euan N K Clarkson et al), which covers a comparatively small slice of geological time, and a small number of others, there has been little published for the popular market on Scottish palaeontology. It is also clear to all who visit Scotland that it has wonderful rock scenery, so there are heaps of books on the general geology and geomorphology of the area (and I have reviewed several for this magazine). However, there is next to nothing on the fossils that can be found here. Therefore, this little book comes as a welcome addition to this otherwise barren scene.

In ‘Scottish Fossils’, Nigel Trewin has produced a wide-ranging book covering examples of many different types of fossil fauna and flora from all parts of the Phanerozoic, much of which can be found by the amateur collector. Therefore, it cannot be considered to be a comprehensive guide (it doesn’t set out to be one), but it does give a flavour of what can be found and also sets out where you might go to look for fossils. In addition, the full colour photographs and pictures are lovely, and illustrate the interesting text to full effect. (I particularly liked the picture of Clydagnathus, having just finished Simon Knell’s excellent book ‘The Great Fossil Enigma’ on conodonts.)

The author has taught at Aberdeen University and National Museums, Scotland, and has more than 50 years of experience of palaeontology. He has also written popular and academic books on geology, and this may be his best yet (see, in particular, ‘Fossils Alive! New Walks in an Old Field’, and ‘Excursion Guide to the Geology of East Sutherland’, which are both excellent books and one of them covers Scottish fossils).

Given the success of this book, there is no reason why geo-publishers should not produce more. What about a PalAss book on Devonian fishes and tetrapods? Let’s have some more on this fascinating part of Great Britain – it has some wonderful palaeontology.

Scottish Fossils by Nigel H Trewin, Brocken Dunedin Academic Press Ltd, Edinburgh (2013), 118 pages (hardbck), ISBN: 978-17804600192

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