Ginger Garrison, Peces de la Isla del Coco Fishes.
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio),
Santo Domingo, Costa Rica, 2000. 392 pp.
This is a beautiful picture book. It is a feel-
good salute to environmentalists and environ-
mental organizations working on Cocos Island.
The book was put together with the well wishes
and aid of many prominent ichthyologists, envi-
ronmentalists, and environmental organizations.
Everyone should buy a copy just to support the
worthy and important goal of preserving the
environment of Cocos Island (proceeds go to that
fund). It is the best guide available to the ﬁshes of
Beyond the good feelings we may have for the
inspiration behind this book, project (U.S. Geolog-
ical Survey Isla del Coco National Park Project SIS #
2039, cars.er.usgs.gov/basis/Coral_Reef_Ecology /
2039/2039.html), and support [INBio and United
Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc, and Cultural Orga-
nization (UNESCO)], we must concede that it is not
an adequate ﬁeld guide to the ﬁshes of Cocos Island.
Despite many advertisements, synopses, and text
statements attesting to such an attribute (e.g.,
Anonymous, 2003b, 2003c), it cannot easily be used
to identify most of the ﬁshes listed, is twice as heavy
and thick as it should be, and it is around half as
complete as it should be.
No key or sorting feature is presented other
than a color code to ﬁsh families inside the front
cover (mostly of use to ichthyologists), most of the
photographs are not of diagnostic quality, and
many are of no use for identiﬁcation. The brief
descriptions do not emphasize, indicate, or some-
times even include the most important diagnostic
Field guides need to be as compact and
portable as possible. Placing the text in two
languages means that the reader of whichever
language is forced to carry around twice as much
weight and volume than they need. This may be
okay in coffee-table picture volumes, but this ﬁeld
guide should have been published in separate
English and Spanish volumes. Most of all the
introductory materials and the lists at the end have
nothing to do with identifying ﬁshes.
The volume only considers less than half (140)
of the 356 (we add 90 species, Table 1) ﬁsh species
known from Cocos Island. The volume never
explains what ‘‘the more commonly observed ﬁshes
in the nearshore waters’’ (p. 47) means, since many
of the ﬁshes listed are noted to only occur occa-
sionally, uncommonly, or even rarely (e.g., ‘‘The
hound needleﬁsh ... is more common ...’’ (p. 110).
Yet only the California Needleﬁsh was featured in
the book; Indo-Paciﬁc Sailﬁsh, Striped Marlin,
Wahoo, Whale Shark, and others featured in the
book are never commonly observed by divers). The
value of a rather incomplete guide is not explained.
Despite these limitations, it remains the only
guide to Cocos Island ﬁshes. Allen and Robertson
(1994) contained disappointingly little information
about each ﬁsh species, Fischer et al. (1995)
contained more information, but was somewhat
inconsistent, ‘‘FishBase’’ (Froese and Pauly, 2004)
was also incomplete concerning Cocos Island, but
the latter will continue to evolve and become more
useful, and Wilson et al. (2001) does not appear to
be functional. The guide Bussing and Lavenberg
are preparing, with line drawings and diagnostic
characters, to approximately 380 reef ﬁshes of
Cocos island and Paciﬁc Costa Rica, which should
become available next year (Bussing, 1999, pers.
commun.), should compliment Garrison (2000),
and solve some of its problems.
Another troubling aspect of this book is that
the author appeared to have made a few scuba
diving visits to Cocos Island during which she
observed ﬁshes, but did not collect a single
specimen (Garrison, 1996, 2000). She seems to
have taken the long-term, unpublished ichthyo-
logical investigations of Drs. William A. Bussing
and Robert J. Lavenberg to not only compile a ﬁsh
checklist, but to form a considerable amount of
her book. More explanation should have been given
in the ‘‘Acknowledgements’’ [=Acknowledgments]
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries (2005) 15:177–187 Ó Springer 2006