[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
HAVE been long supposed to be vegetable marine productions, and, indeed, their ramifications and progressive growth give to them so much the appearance of a plant, that it is no wonder if they have been, for so many centuries, classed among the children of mere vegetation. However, it has been discovered of late, and satisfactorily proved, that the Coral is not the produce of a vegetative power, but of several small animalcules set to work all together to raise that construction. When the coral is taken out of water, these insects die immediately, and the vital principle being entirely extinguished, the calcareous matter which these animalcules have worked, as the bees do the wax, naturally hardens into stone, and becomes a very strong and heavy substance.
The Coral is, as its name implies, the ornament of the sea, at the bottom of which extensive shrubberies, groves, and forests of this production, wave gently with the currents of the tides, which ebb and flow over their summits. We understand that white coral is found in great abundance on the shores of Ceylon, where the lime for building is made by burning it. Black coral is very scarce.
The Corallines are sub-marine productions, resembling plants, consisting of stalks and branches, often beautifully ramified, and composed of joints of an oblong figure, inserted into one another. They are all the works and abodes of sea-animals.