I mentioned last year that I was working on an English translation of Diatomeen im Süßwasser-Benthos … (see “Tales of Hofmann …”) and I am pleased to say that it has just been published by Koeltz Books. The original German edition was written by Gabi Hofmann, Horst Lange-Bertalot and Marcus Werum and included over 700 of the most commonly-encountered benthic diatoms. The new edition has added Marco Cantonati as an additional author and myself as an editor and has also been expanded so that there are now over 800 species represented. Marco also undertook the primary task of translating the German into English after which I stepped into to give the text a final polish.
We’ve also taken the opportunity to update the taxonomy. One frustration for many was the conservative approach that the first edition took to Fragilaria and relatives. There has been a vigorous debate about this group for the last thirty years, with unanimity on the limits of the various genera still not achieved to everyone’s satisfaction. There are, however, few who would regard lumping all into Fragilaria to be an acceptable solution. The new edition unpicks the Fragilaria mega-genus in greater detail than in the first, adding Ctenophora, Pseudostaurosira, Staurosira, Staurosirella and Ulnaria to the list of genera. Similarly, Tryblionella has now been split off from Nitzschia. Several other new genera also make their debuts in this edition (including Gilwiczia, Humidophila, Khursevichia, Paraplaconeis and Prestauroneis) whilst Eolimna has disappeared, the extant species subsumed into Sellaphora. Finally, some former Diatoma species are now found in Odontidium (see “A tale of two diatoms …”). Fragilaria pectinalis (see “And another one …”) is another species that has been included in this volume.
We have also put in some time improving the keys. The original edition had a worrying tendency to include ecological information in the couplets, which means that any inferences drawn from the diatom assemblage about the habitat is compromised as the name itself depends partly upon that habitat (see “Identification by association?”). I have tried to remove such circularity from the identification process in this version.
I’m a big believer in all analysts who work within a program using the same identification literature (ideally we should be using the same identification literature as was used by the developers of the metrics that are being used). This brings a measure of consistency to the outputs, and also provides an indication of the level of detail that is required, which can limit the amount of time spent tracking down the correct name for a few valves of a rare diatom. The original version of this book served that purpose well, I thought, and I hope that the new edition will continue that trend.
If 158 euros for 2.7 kg of dense scientific prose is not your thing, my cousin Pippa Kelly has an alternative offering that I can recommend. Her first novel, Invisible Ink, differs from Freshwater Benthic Diatoms in just three respects:
- it is cheaper (£8.99 for the paperback, £3.99 for the e-book);
- it is lighter (344 grams); and,
- it is a book you might actually want to read from cover to cover.