Crinoid Excellence

We've seen books on trilobites and even graptolites but now we have the ultimate - a book strictly on the crinoids of the world! In an attempt to be the first on my block to get this book I ordered it directly from the publisher, Cambridge University Press. Fossil Crinoids became available towards the end of 1999 with a price of $74.95 for the 275-page work. Hans Hess, William Ausich, Carlton Brett, and Michael Simms are primary authors of Fossil Crinoids. Other contributing authors include: D. Bradford Macurda, Stephen Donovan, Wendy Taylor, Hans Hagdorn. René Kindlimann provided illustrations.

Not all of the authors will be familiar to all readers so I'll pass on some of the biographical information on them.

Hans Hess is affiliated with the Basel Natural History Museum. It is my understanding that he is a well known amateur paleontologist with an extensive and worldwide collection of crinoids. Hess is the person that conceived of this book.

William Ausich is chairman and department head for Geological Sciences at Ohio State University. Ausich is a frequent collaborator with our own David Meyer.

Carlton Brett is professor of geology here at the University of Cincinnati. Michael Simms is curator of paleontology at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

Amongst the other contributors are: Stephen Donovan, Keeper of Paleontology at the Natural History Museum, London; from the biographical information in Fossil Crinoids it appears that Hans Hagdorn is another amateur with extensive research credentials; René Kindlimann is responsible for line drawn art and is another publishing amateur; D. Bradford Macurda has been a professor at the University of Michigan and a noted blastoid and crinoid expert; Wendy Taylor has been collections manager at the Paleontological Research Institute. Her research efforts include Paleozoic echinoderm fossil assemblages.

Fossil Crinoids is a twenty-nine chapter book divided into two main parts: a general part and an assemblages part. The general part contains the first five chapters covering: Crinoid Form and Function; Systematics, Phylogeny and Evolutionary History; Fossil occurrence; Taphonomy; and Ecology and Ecological Interactions. Each chapter in the remaining assemblages section deals with specific important fossil crinoid assemblages organized in order from oldest to youngest. The last chapter covers living Recent crinoids. Fossil Crinoids is well organized and includes one appendix illustrating the geologic time of occurrence for each crinoid assemblage discussed and a second appendix that explains the terms for rock types and their formation as used throughout the book. A bibliography, a general index, and a taxonomic index end Fossil Crinoids.

The publisher, the price, and the content of Fossil Crinoids immediately says, "this is no coffee table book of fluff and pretty pictures." No, this is a professionally done work packed with a tremendous amount of information on crinoids. The 56 pages of the general part contains a quantity of information not normally found in any one publication other than the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. The assemblages chapters are also not just pretty pictures and drawings. They contain a lot of substance on the ancient environments, how the crinoids lived, how they died, and how they came to be so well preserved. Even if your interest lies in only one particular grouping of crinoids (say Cincinnatian or Crawfordsville for example) the other chapters will still provide information pertinent to your area.

Fossil Crinoids is presented as a book "for paleontologists, geologists, evolutionary and marine biologists, ecologists, and amateur fossil collectors." I will say that as for the amateur fossil collectors this work will be most enjoyed by what I will loosely call "advanced amateurs." My reasoning is simple. Fossil Crinoids uses technical terms which are not necessarily defined in context nor in a glossary. This could leave some beginning collectors scratching their heads. The other side of this coin is the one I like to promote - learning. I am an advocate of learning by stretching your abilities and doing so by reading above your current level of understanding. Don't let a few big words scare you away from this (or any other) book.

It is worth taking some time here to complement the authors and contributors on the quality of their photographs and illustrations. I didn't count but I'd guess that there are over 100 photographs of outstandingly preserved fossil crinoids. A small section at the beginning contains a dozen color photographs of both living and fossil crinoids. The line drawings are used to best advantage in illustrating the reconstructed life forms of fossil crinoids.

Well, I suppose I should let you in on just which outstanding fossil crinoid assemblages are included. The major assemblages covered individually by chapter are: Middle Ordovician Trenton of New York; Middle Ordovician of Lake Simcoe Ontario, Canada; Upper Ordovician of Cincinnati, Ohio; Silurian of Gotland, Sweden; Middle Silurian Rochester Shale of New York and Ontario, Canada; Silurian - Devonian boundary of Morocco; Lower Devonian Manlius/Coeymans Formation of central New York; Lower Devonian Hunsrück Slate of Germany; Middle Devonian Windom Shale of Vincent, New York; Middle Devonian Arkona Shale of Ontario, Canada and the Silica Shale of Ohio; Lower Mississippian Hampton Formation at LeGrand, Illinois; Lower Mississippian Burlington Limestone in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri; Lower Missippian of Crawfordsville, Indiana; Upper Pennsylvanian LaSalle member of central Illinois; the Permian; Triassic Muschelkalk of central Europe; Lower Jurassic of southern England; Lower Jurassic Posidonia Shale of southern Germany; Middle Jurassic of southern England; Middle Jurassic of northern Switzerland; Upper Jurassic Solnhofen Plattenkalk of Germany; Uintacrinus beds of the Upper Cretaceous Niobrara formation in Kansas; Tertiary; and Recent. Chapter three discusses worldwide fossil assemblages that did not merit full chapter coverage in the Assemblage section of the book.

Looking at the Cincinnatian chapter that is of personal and local interest I will say that I wish it had been longer and more inclusive. However, as much as we love our local specimens it is hard to compare with the likes of Crawfordsville, et. al., and it is understandable that the authors devoted more space to some of the more spectacular assemblages.

Bill Ausich of Ohio State authored the Cincinnatian chapter. He briefly explains the geographic setting, age, and environment of the Cincinnatian. A more detailed and readable description is presented about the depositional environment as it changed from the Kope through the Maysvillian and the Richmondian. Here Ausich explains the cycles of changing sea level right up to the terminal glaciation event that ended the Ordovician. Preservation of crinoid assemblages in the Cincinnatian and the role of periodic storm generated deposits is explained. Crinoids mentioned in this chapter include the two Cincinnaticrinus species, Ohiocrinus, Ectenocrinus, Glyptocrinus, Pycnocrinus, Gaurocrinus, Cupulocrinus, Xenocrinus and the multi-plated crinoid holdfast Lichenocrinus. Cincinnaticrinus, Ohiocrinus, Glyptocrinus and Pycnocrinus are discussed in some detail. Included are some really fine line drawings of "living" Cincinnaticrinus and Pycnocrinus.

I obviously can't get into detail about all of the crinoids and information covered in Fossil Crinoids. One of the memorable highlights that stuck in my mind included evidence of color preservation in a number of crinoids in many geologic ages (Chapter 4 Taphonomy). Others included floating crinoids of the Lower Devonian with a bulbous floatation device for a holdfast (Chapter 11), Lower Jurassic floating crinoids that hung pendant-like attached to driftwood (Chapters 22 and 23), and Jurassic crinoids with stems over 60 feet long (Chapter 23).

I have only one negative note to make. It concerns a single misstatement in chapter two, Systematics, Phylogeny, and Evolutionary History, by Simms. On page 36 Simms makes a statement concerning features possessed by Dendrocrinine - a Suborder of the Order Cladida. In part, Simms states that the Dendrocrinine have certain features not possessed by another group. The features he lists included "arm-base facets extending the full width of the radials" and "rounded or flat, usually uniserial pinnulate arms." These two statements are precisely the opposite of the physiology of our local Dendrocrinine crinoids: Dendrocrinus caduceus and Plicodendrocrinus casei (which is why I knew there was a problem). I discussed this briefly with David Meyer. He indicated that I was indeed correct and that the misstatement relates to problems with crinoid classification at higher taxonomic levels. David will be publishing an upcoming review of Fossil Crinoids for P.R.I.'s American Paleontologist publication and will discuss this issue at a professional level at that time.

Fossil Crinoids has my highest recommendation to crinoid lovers everywhere. The book is written by top-notch researchers who have done outstanding work in presenting information in an easily readable style with a well organized approach. Fossil Crinoids can be special ordered through better book stores or directly from the publisher on line at

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