Early accounts of Oman's marine realm recognized, but greatly underestimated, the wealth and diversity of its biological treasure. The last decade has divulged more and more of these secrets and inspired global interest in the Sultanate for its turtles, whales, fishes and fisheries, coral reefs, and awe-inspiring coastal scenery. More has been written about turtles, dolphins, and whales, waders and seabirds, than corals. However, the corals of Oman have surpassed early expectations and confounded predictions. Oman's seas have yielded a far greater variety of corals and both more and older reefs than anticipated. There have been reef fishes and corals new to science including the living fossil Parasimplastrea simplicitexta. This coral was known and described from fossils and assigned to a family all of which were believed to be extinct until its discovery alive in Oman.

    Corals are generally little appreciated creatures. We tend to perceive them more as architects or scenery rather than as oases of life. As founders of a complex ecosystem, corals sustain important fisheries as well as our pleasure as snorkellers and divers.

    Use this book to open doors to new interest in the Sultanate's seas, and please take care to treat corals with consideration. They are fragile creatures, despite their robust appearance, and a careless kick, a casual anchor, or the weight of a standing person. can destroy decades of coral growth.

    It is easy to be inspired by the wild and scenic coastline of Oman and its wealth of life. However, identifying the creatures there and pursuing a naturalist's inclination to probe deeper into the names and habits of this profusion of life has been difficult without adequate field guides. Understanding marine life leads to greater appreciation and is an important step to conserving and using it wisely. This book joins an increasingly large and valuable collection for the seashore naturalist's collection and is a most welcome addition.

Rodney V.Salm