Thursday, August 10, 2006


Book Review: A Landmark on Philippine Ichthyology


Melchor F. Cichon

Fishes/Prudencia V. Conlu.--Quezon City: Natural Resource Center, Ministry of Natural Resources and the University of the Philippines, c1986. xx, 493. (Guide to Philippine Flora and Fauna, vol. xix) (Available at UPV-CFOS Library, Miag-ao, Iloilo, Philippines)

This book will definitely serve as a major reference text on Philippine fishes for decades to come. It is the first book on the subject written by a Filipino since 1937. It updates and expands the three most used references on Philippine fishes today: Edible Fishes of Manila, by Agustin F. Umali, 1937; Albert Herre, Checklist of Philippine Fishes, 1953; and Norbert Rau and Anke Rau,. Commercial Fishes of the Central Philippines (Bony Fishes), 1980.

Umali's work provides the scientific names, common names, description, biology, distribution and the literature sources. It has no illustrations. In Rau and Rau's work, the specimens were gathered from Cebu. It also provides the scientific names, common names and descriptions of Philippine fishes commonly seen in the markets in Cebu. Each species is illustrated. the scientific names do not bear dates.

Prof.Conlu's work, on the other hand, gives all the features provided by Umali, Herre and Rau and Rau, plus expanded details on the biology of the species presented. One more feature which is not found in any of the three references mentioned , is the ecological status of each species described and illustrated. The ecological status based on such categories as rare, vanishing, or not. Aside from that, Prof. Conlu's work includes the twenty species not included in Herre's work, bringing the present known Philippine fishes from 2,1175 to 2,202. It describes 427 species with 395 illustrations in black and white. The specimens were collected from various fish landings, fish markets, fishing village, and from various fishing operations in some fishing grounds of the Philippines. In short, the specimens came from the various parts of the Philippines. The total species described represents 20% families and 235 genera.

This review will not be complete of I don't present some of its shortcomings. And if the author will have a chance to revise this, I offer these unsolicited suggestions:

1. The note at the Index to Scientific Names be revised so that readers would not be confused whether the numbers in bold print refer to figure number or page number where the figure is found. As an information analyst, I thought that the numbers in bold print in the Index to Scientific Names really refer to the Figure Number. But I was wrong. The note says: "Numbers in the bold print refer to Figures, while the figures in italics denote Synonyms". A further checking on the index reveals that the bold numbers refer to the page where the figures are located.

2. This book is fully illustrated, yet the illustrator's name does not appear in any pages of this book. It is suggested that the illustrator of this book be acknowledged even if he has been commissioned to do those illustrations. He is still the rightful author of those ilustrations and he is entitled to an acknowledgment.

3. This book is full of information particularly on the biology and distribution of each species. but I did not see any footnotes. The three-page bibliography is very insufficient if not tiresome to a researcher who wants to know more about the fish particulalry when he has limited time to research. It is therefore suggested that footnotes or endnotes be used not only to facilitate the work of a researcher but also to give credit where credit is due.

4. The book presents 427 species, yet there are only 295 figures. Therefore there are 32 species which have no illustrations. It would be very helpful to researchers if these missing illustrations be supplied in the next edition.
These shortcomings are, however, very negligible when compared to the merits of this woprk. Fisheries students, researchers, scuba divers, policy and decision makers will find this work very valuable. It deserves a place in every fisheries library.

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