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Geoscientist Online

Nautilus - beautiful survivor

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Wolfgang Grulke, an author and collector based in Dorset (see Cabinet of curiosities, Geoscientist 24.9 October 2014) has already delighted us with his beautiful book Heteromorph: The rarest fossil ammonites – Nature at its most bizarre, which appeared with the Society’s imprimatur and received a glowing review in these pages from Professor Chris Wilson in 2015.  He has now repeated the trick with this, no less stunning coffee-table-format book on Nautilus and the nautiloids.

Also bearing the endorsement of the Society and with an introduction by Professor Peter Ward (University of Washington, Seattle), this loving tribute to Nautilus and its long family tree (whose complexities are helpfully set out in a fold-out diagram for easy reference while reading) is the ideal Christmas gift for the fossilist in your life.

Well spaced between ravishing colour photographs, Grulke’s easy-going text takes the reader through the taxonomy of the cephalopods, the history of scientific awareness and investigation of the famous ‘living fossil’, to a survey of today’s extant genera and species - their cultural and artistic importance worldwide, as well as some fascinating ‘freak’ pathological specimens.  Grulke then guides us expertly through half a billion years of the group’s evolution and fossilization, via a series of ‘visual galleries’ showing typical examples from the stratigraphic record.

As a collector, Grulke is not at all disdainful of the importance of the Nautilus to art and design, and he devotes an entire chapter to the different ways in which these beguiling shells have become incorporated or converted into beautiful works of art.

The author’s passion for Nautilus, both as living thing and as object, comes out most clearly in the final two chapters, with a series of anecdotes detailing his own personal involvement with Nautilus as a diver, collector and as author of this book; while he concludes by asking the question – is Nautilus thriving, or on the brink of extinction?  Opinion, it seems, is that divided!  Grulke, as a sought-after business consultant in his other life, has some interesting insights to impart into what ‘scarcity’ really means, and how it relates to market price.

Accessible, quirky, and above all a labour of love, written with the cooperation of a vast array of scientific experts, Nautilus – beautiful survivor is a superb achievement and represents truly astounding value at £38.00.

Reviewed by Ted Nield

NAUTILUS: BEAUTIFUL SURVIVOR.  500 MILLION YEARS OF EVOLUTION by WOLFGANG GRULKE.  Published by: @one Press, 2016.  ISBN: 978-0-9929740-3-9 (Classic Edn).  List Price: £38.00,  224pp, hbk.  W: www.geolsoc.org.uk/mpbnu