The book consists of 25 chapters. The initial five chapters introduce paleobotanical history, principles of geologic age, types of plant fossils, and the techniques employed to study them. Chapter 6 deals with Precambrian paleobotany and chapter 7 with the classification of fossil plants. Major groups of fossil plants are individually treated in chapters 8-19 and 22. Gondwana and Tertiary floras of India are reviewed briefly in chapters 20 and 21. Applied paleobotany is discussed in the final three chapters (23-25).
Paleontologists throughout the world have a great interest in the origin of angiosperms and in fossil angiosperm records. A huge amount of literature on new discoveries has been published in the last two decades, for example, Triassic angiospermid pollen from Arizona (e.g., Review of paleobotany and Palynology, 1988, 55: 337-356) considered to have an affinity with the family Araceae; or the Early Cretaceous origin of Hamamelidaceae based on the discovery of Hamamelidalean Cretaceous fossil flowers with in situ pollen from the Upper Cretaceous of Sweden (1991, Plant Syst. Evol., 175: 101-114). Nine pages in chapter 22 on "Fossil Angiosperms" do not do justice to the subject. The only significant finding included is the case of Eucommiidites which, however, was proven to be gymnosperinous as early as 1961. In comparing angiosperm pollen exine with that of Cheirolepidacea, the term "tectate" (p. 282) should have been "columellate" or "baculate."
It is well established that most sedimented palynomorphs are mainly transported by water. Wind transported palynomorphs have a negligible role in pre-Quaternary sediments. In explaining the role of palynology in oil exploration (chapter 23, pp. 291 and 293), the author's emphasis on the significance of wind dispersed pollen and spores is erroneous. Recycling of palynomorphs is also explained wrongly as due to "their minute size, pollen and spores are susceptible to removal by waters circulating through the rock strata" (p. 292). Recycling of any fossil occurs by the erosion of older strata and its redeposition in younger formations just like any sedimentary particle. Although the term "acritarch" was proposed in 1963, the author has used the old discarded term "Hystricosphaerids" (sic) for these organic walled unicellular marine algal cysts abundant in pre-Jurassic sediments. Veryhachium sp., illustrated on Fig. 23.6: 1, is an acritarch.
Paleobotanical studies of the last century, such as those of Blanford, Feistmantel, Heer, Medlicott, and Supporta, have been mentioned repeatedly in the text but their full references are not listed. Pioneer studies are the foundation for present and future work and should be referred to fully. The following are examples of the numerous errors throughout the book; references not listed, e.g., Srivastav (sic), 1946; technical mistakes, such as Drimys of "Magnoliaceae" (p. 280) should be "Winteraceae"; Terms wrongly explained, e.g., "nomos, meaning distribution" (p. 9) whereas it actually means "knowledge"; misspellings, e.g., Ephedrites (p. 202) for "Ephedripites", Sahnipusham, (p. 267) for "Sahnipushpam", sapropen (p. 289) for "sapropel". Further, several statements lack clarity. For example, "The exact origin of the earth has puzzled man ever since he appeared on the earth's surface" (italics mine) and "A new hypothesis has recently been added" (p. 9) The nature of "new hypothesis" is not mentioned. Several illustrations are similar to those published in earlier paleobotany texts. Geological principles are explained with simple line diagrams but labeling errors make it difficult to understand the figures. For example, the decayed material is labeled in fig. 4.4 as decreasing whereas it actually increases.
The book is printed on nonglare paper with a hardcover binding. The author could have minimized errors by restricting the scope of the book to plant fossils only. Had he expanded upon Indian paleobotany, the book could have been useful for undergraduate students of Indian universities. Poor reproduction of illustrations and light treatment of the subject will not attract students in western countries where better paleobotany textbooks are easily available. - Satish K. Srivastava, Rowland Heights CA (Department of Earth Sciences, USC)