Monday, 19 January 2015

Ammonites vs Trilobites: War of the Words

Ammonite collectors and Trilobite collectors - just how different are they?

They both have to have the collecting bug but after that is it a mere question of geography?
If you live in Dorset it has to be ammonites and if you live in Utah it has to be trilobites…but I wonder if there are more fundamental differences between them.

CAT scan their skulls and perhaps different areas of the brain light up when you stimulate them with pictures of particularly spiny trilobites or big fat round ammonites that resemble fertility symbols…am I getting carried away here? Will an ammonite collector’s brain be spiral and circular and a trilobite collector’s brain be segmented with bits hanging off it?

And so to Fossil Book of 2014…is it

Trilobites of the World: An Atlas of 1000 photographs by Pete Lawrence and Sinclair Stammers(SiriScientificPress)


Heteromorph: The Rarest Fossil Ammonites. Nature at its most Bizarre by Wolfgang Grulke(@one communications).

Trilobites of the World:
350 pages containing 1000 photographs of 750 species of trilobites arranged geographically and by geological period.
There are a few trilobites and locations not covered in this worthy tome but none that you are likely to come across in the market place so this would be the only book you would need to identify any trilobite collection.
This is the work of trilobite collector Pete Lawrence from Gloucester U.K. and scientific photographer Sinclair Stammers.

Pete found his first trilobite in 1967(he is nearly as old as me) and was hooked. He is a geology graduate who gave up a promising career as a museum curator 30 years ago because it conflicted with his collecting activities. Because of his collecting habits he moved to the dark side…fossil dealing!!!

The book is mostly Pete’s collection but to reach the 1000 pic target he borrowed 50 specimens from his best friend and deadly rival, trilobite guru (Dr) Bob Kennedy.
The collaboration with Sinclair Stammers, fossil nerd from the age of 7, began with a meeting at a Rock and Gem Fair 15 years ago.Sinclair has been photographing Pete’s trilobites, with the idea of a book in mind ever since.

Trilobites from 30 countries are covered, beginning (alphabetically) with Argentina and ending with Wales.
There is an analysis of each country’s deposits as well as ‘up to date’ theories of their habits and behavior, and a description of each trilobite photographed.

Pete ruefully admits that the book was out of date as soon as it was published in mid 2014. Readers informed him straightaway that some of the trilobites had been renamed and reassigned as is always the case.
Half of the initial print run of 3000 has already sold so all the new information and alterations will be included in the second edition, scheduled for the end of 2015,although,as Pete points out, as soon as the new edition is published it will be out of date.

The dynamic world of trilobite research does not stand still!!
If you find trilobites things of beauty-definitely an acquired taste-look no further. You won’t be in for another treat like this for a long time.

Is an encyclopaedic globalcentric lavishly illustrated erudite glossy coffee table book about the oddest of the ammonites, evolution’s delinquent uncurled experiments.

They occurred in all sizes, shapes and periods and nobody can really explain why they chose to be the shape they were.
Wolfgang tries, nevertheless. His conclusion-because they could! In doing so, he indulges his passion and displays his knowledge with a thorough photographic survey of the ammonites, their collectors and locations from all 5 inhabited continents.

He looks at their evolution, lifestyle, physiology, wonders about their sexual practices, and digresses into fascinating speculation (and stunning pictures) in the new field of fractal geometry in the natural world.
He throws his lot in with the amateur and commercial collector in the ongoing debate of palaeontology’s academics v everyone else. He finds comparisons in the modern world. He treats his subjects as things of beauty as well as objects of study. In the final pages he provides a photographic record of a pile of rubble that is transformed into a $1million art object. I love his postscript in which he compares a fossil dig to a jazz gig:
“A jazz musician puts a $5000 saxophone into a $500 car to drive 50 miles to a $5 gig...” -There is a photograph of a massive hole and a massive digger and the tiny ammonite that is the result of the dig!

Wolfgang’s first love of scuba diving moved sideways to palaeontology and extinct sea creatures when he moved to Dorset in the 70s. As a business guru for over 20 years he says he was many airlines best customer and he always took time off during his travels to visit fossil sites and collectors.

When he was told by a publisher that the book would take 4 years to put together, he and his wife took up the challenge and did the job in one year. The book is recommended by the Geological Society ( and has an impressive list of international fossil worthies and luminaries in acknowledgement section.

Not a man too sit still, he has more projects on the go, including a book on fossil nautilus and a David Attenborough type film project that might get off the ground if enough of the right business lunches are consumed.

He is also putting some of his energies into Jurassica. This worthy project, still jumping through initial planning and funding hoops, aims to do for the Jurassic coast and a disused quarry what the Eden Project did for horticulture and a disused Clay Pit.
The £90million project aims to build a solar powered dome 100 meters across and 35 metres deep in a disused quarry on the island of Portland which will attract 700,000 visitors a year. It will feature real fossils and animatronics.
It plans to open in 2020. Good luck to them.


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  2. Excellent reviews as ever Mr Cohen, look forward to your book of 'reminiscences of a fossil life' one day...