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Coral

red, colour, surface, fish, net, rocks and fishery

CORAL, and Collar. FISHERY. The substance called coral was formerly considered to be of vegetable origin, but it is now admitted to be of animal origin, belonging to the order Zoophytes : by analysis it is fouhd to consist almost wholly of animal matter and carbonate of lime. The coral plants, (as they are termed) sometimes shoot out like trees without leaves in winter; they often spread out a broad surface like a fan, and not uncommonly a large bundling head like a faggot ; sometimes they are found to resemble a plant, with leaves and flowers, and often the antlers of a stag, with great exactness and regularity. If, in our researches after the nature of these plants, we should be induced to break off a branch of the coraline substance, and observe it carefully, we shall perceive its whole surface, which is very rugged and irregular, covered with a mucous fluid, and almost in every part studded with little jelly-like droliti, which, when closely examined, will be found to be no other than insects of the polypus kind. If a coraline plant be strictly examined whilst growing in the sea, and the animals upon the surface be not disturbed, either by the agitation of the waters or the touch of the observer, the little polypi will then be seen in infinite numbers, each issuing from its cell, and, in some kinds, the head covered with a little shell resembling an umbrella, the arms spread abroad in order to seize its prey, while the hinder part still remains attached to its habitation, whence it never wholly removes. By this time it is perceived that the number of its inhabitants is infinitely greater than was at first suspected ; that they are all assiduously employed in the same pursuits; and that they issue from their respective cells, and retire into them at pleasure. The true, or red coral, was considered by Linnteus as an iris, and arranged as such in the Systems, though Linnaeus himself acknowledged to Mr. Ellis, the author of the Natural History of Zoophytes, that the latter had more properly classed it with the gorgonia, or sea-fan. The red coral grows in an exposed and somewhat flattened form, with dichotomous branches, that lessen towards their extremities. The flesh is of the colour of red lead, or inclining to vermilion, soft, slippery, and full of minute vessels. The mouths are placed on the surface, and rise up in a conical form, consisting of eight valves, just opening, whence proceed polypi of a white colour, with eight claws, each of which has a double fibre at both edges. The bone, or shell itself, divested of the flesh, is the true coral of the

shops, and which, in its natural state, is of a strong texture, and of a bright red colour, with the outside marked with minute furrows, or irregular striations, interspersed with a few slight depressions, corresponding with the situation of the shells before the flesh was removed. The coral fishery is a very lucrative employment. The time for fishing is from April to July ; the places are the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the coasts of Africa, towards the bastion of France, the isles of Majorca and Corsica, and the coasts of Provence and Catalonia. Spallanzini, in his Travels in the Two Sicilies, has particularly described the coral fishery in the Strait of Messina. The instrument by which they force the branches of coral from the rocks, is formed with two poles of wood, crossing each other at right angles, and having a piece of net fastened on the under side to their extremities. A large stone is fixed where the poles are crossed, that the instrument may more readily sink to the bottom. A cord is strongly tied round the middle of it, one end of which the fisherman holds in his hand, guiding by it the net to those places where the coral is supposed to grow, and which is enclosed in the pieces of the net, broken off and drawn up. The rocks which produce the coral are situated almost in the middle of the Strait, at different depths, from 350 to 650 feet. The bottom and caverns of the rocks are the places from which they endeavour to bring up the coral in their nets, and it is a constant observation, that every branch is perpendicular to the plane on which it grows, without ever turning on one side. The coral fishermen have divided the whole track in which they fish into ten parts. Every year they fish in only one of these parts, and do not fish in it again till ten years are elapsed. This interval of ten years they think necessary for the coral to acquire its full growth in height and consistence. When they transgress this law they find the coral smaller and of less consistence ; and the intensity of the colour is always in proportion to the number of years they have desisted from fishing.