Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous
Author William W. Morgan should be familiar to many readers of popular books on paleontology. He is the author of Collector’s Guide to Crawfordsville Crinoids, 2014, also published by Shiffer. Morgan is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center. He holds a PhD in anatomy and physiology from Indiana University in Bloomington. Having been a researcher in the medical field during his career he has now turned his research expertise to paleontology.
Like his book on the Crawfordsville crinoids, this work on Texas Cretaceous echinoids is also well researched and beautifully illustrated.
Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous Echinoids begins with a Foreword by Professor Colin Sumrall of the University of Tennessee who relates his own experience of collecting echinoids in Texas. Sumrall was frustrated with the available literature on these abundant fossils. Highly technical and obscure references made species identification beyond the ability of non-specialists. This book then fills a void. Sumrall was also one of the technical reviewers for this book.
The Series Editor for these Shiffer titles, Robert Lauf, also provides a Foreword. I mention this because you may recognize Bob Lauf as one of our mineral identification experts at Geofair every year. Bob has written numerous books on minerals for Shiffer.
In Morgan’s Preface, he explains the difficulty with researching Texas echinoids - old scientific literature poorly illustrated with hand drawn images or single view black and white photos. In creating this book, Morgan updates taxonomy and provides exceptional color photographic illustrations with multiple views and close ups of important features. He emphasizes that Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous Echinoids is not just a picture book of pretty specimens. As Morgan states, the book is for the non-specialist and he has eliminated as much jargon as possible.
The Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous Echinoids begins with detailed coverage of the Cretaceous marine deposits in Texas. The six page section includes detailed range charts for eighty-eight Texas echinoids in two charts - one for the Comanchean and one for the Gulfian Series. These were periods of major flooding of Texas and the creation of the western interior seaway during the Cretaceous. The total time span covered is over 47 million years. A full page chart depicts the two series and their relation to internationally recognized time units. This chart also illustrates the Texas Formations. A full page narrative details the Formations and their occurrence.
Morgan provides a detailed and much needed chapter as an introduction to echinoids. Here he presents the basic anatomical descriptions and terminology used throughout the book. Reader’s not already well versed in echinoderm anatomical terminology will find this challenging. Some terms are typical for echinoderms in general while others are more specific to the echinoids. Morgan uses bold typeface when introducing a term used for the first time. New students of echinoids will find themselves flipping back to these pages or to the glossary when reading about specific specimens in the rest of the book. Regular echinoids and irregular echinoids are further explained in separate sections of this chapter. The regular echinoids are typically somewhat spherical, have long spines and live on the sea floor while the irregulars are more heart shaped, have smaller spines and burrow into the sea floor. Here, annotated color photographs or detailed line drawings are used to clarify the anatomical terminology. These are very well done but again, the non-specialist or beginner will need to study this section carefully to comprehend all that is presented. For example, one page alone contains 26 newly introduced technical terms.
The remainder of the book, the next 135 pages, covers the description of all of the Texas species beginning with the regular echinoids followed by the irregular echinoids. In the descriptive sections, Morgan uses boldface type to indicate anatomical features that are important to the description of the species that differentiate it from other similar species. The highest level of organization is typically Order with most specimens identified to species level. Morgan cautions that the sequence of presentation in Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous Echinoids is not intended to represent phylogenetic relationships.
The majority of the specimens illustrated and described in Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous Echinoids are noted as being in private collections. The University of Texas at Austin and the Perot Museum in Dallas allowed specimens to be photographed for this book as well. Scale bars are used in at least one photograph of each specimen being described.
As with Morgan’s Collector’s Guide to Crawfordsville Crinoids, Collector’s Guide to Texas Cretaceous Echinoids is a well researched and professionally done project. Any collector of Texas echinoids should welcome this book as an informative guide for identification.
Readability - Undergrad because of technical terminology.
On the Upside - The artwork and photographs are all top notch. Photographs are in color throughout. Technical terms are defined in context and in the Glossary.
On the Downside - The book is a bit technical. Although terms are defined, readers unfamiliar with the terminology will frequently find themselves referring to the Glossary for word definitions when reading descriptions.
Overall Rating - This is a well researched book that will be a welcome addition for collectors and specialists of echinoids from the Cretaceous of Texas.