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Coral \Cor"al\, n. [Of. coral, F, corail, L. corallum, coralium, fr. Gr. kora`llion.]

  1. (Zo["o]l.) The hard parts or skeleton of various Anthozoa, and of a few Hydrozoa. Similar structures are also formed by some Bryozoa.

    Note: The large stony corals forming coral reefs belong to various genera of Madreporaria, and to the hydroid genus, Millepora. The red coral, used in jewelry, is the stony axis of the stem of a gorgonian ( Corallium rubrum) found chiefly in the Mediterranean. The fan corals, plume corals, and sea feathers are species of Gorgoniacea, in which the axis is horny. Organ-pipe coral is formed by the genus Tubipora, an Alcyonarian, and black coral is in part the axis of species of the genus Antipathes. See Anthozoa, Madrepora.

  2. The ovaries of a cooked lobster; -- so called from their color.

  3. A piece of coral, usually fitted with small bells and other appurtenances, used by children as a plaything. Brain coral, or Brain stone coral. See under Brain. Chain coral. See under Chain. Coral animal (Zo["o]l.), one of the polyps by which corals are formed. They are often very erroneously called coral insects. Coral fish. See in the Vocabulary. Coral reefs (Phys. Geog.), reefs, often of great extent, made up chiefly of fragments of corals, coral sands, and the solid limestone resulting from their consolidation. They are classed as fringing reefs, when they border the land; barrier reefs, when separated from the shore by a broad belt of water; atolls, when they constitute separate islands, usually inclosing a lagoon. See Atoll. Coral root (Bot.), a genus ( Corallorhiza) of orchideous plants, of a yellowish or brownish red color, parasitic on roots of other plants, and having curious jointed or knotted roots not unlike some kinds of coral. See Illust. under Coralloid. Coral snake. (Zo)

    1. A small, venomous, Brazilian snake (Elaps corallinus), coral-red, with black bands.

    2. A small, harmless, South American snake ( Tortrix scytale).

      Coral tree (Bot.), a tropical, leguminous plant, of several species, with showy, scarlet blossoms and coral-red seeds. The best known is Erythrina Corallodendron.

      Coral wood, a hard, red cabinet wood.


n. (plural of atoll English)

Usage examples of "atolls".

This is one of the lagoon-islands (or atolls) of coral formation, similar to those in the Low Archipelago which we passed near.

Almost every voyager who has crossed the Pacific has expressed his unbounded astonishment at the lagoon-islands, or as I shall for the future call them by their Indian name of atolls, and has attempted some explanation.

The theory that has been most generally received is, that atolls are based on submarine craters.

This theory, moreover, is totally inapplicable to the northern Maldiva atolls in the Indian Ocean (one of which is 88 miles in length, and between 10 and 20 in breadth), for they are not bounded like ordinary atolls by narrow reefs, but by a vast number of separate little atolls.

Thus Radack group of atolls is an irregular square, 520 miles long and 240 broad.

This is a great apparent difficulty, analogous to that in the case of atolls, which has generally been overlooked.

Where banks or sediments have accumulated near to the surface, as in parts of the West Indies, they sometimes become fringed with corals, and hence in some degree resemble lagoon-islands or atolls, in the same manner as fringing-reefs, surrounding gently sloping islands, in some degree resemble barrier-reefs.

We can now perceive how it comes that atolls, having sprung from encircling barrier-reefs, resemble them in general size, form, in the manner in which they are grouped together, and in their arrangement in single or double lines.

We can further see how it arises that the atolls in the Pacific and Indian Oceans extend in lines parallel to the generally prevailing strike of the high islands and great coast-lines of those oceans.

I venture, therefore, to affirm, that on the theory of the upward growth of the corals during the sinking of the land, [13] all the leading features in those wonderful structures, the lagoon-islands or atolls, which have so long excited the attention of voyagers, as well as in the no less wonderful barrier-reefs, whether encircling small islands or stretching for hundreds of miles along the shores of a continent, are simply explained.

It may be asked, whether I can offer any direct evidence of the subsidence of barrier-reefs or atolls.

In these coral formations, where the land and water seem struggling for mastery, it must be ever difficult to decide between the effects of a change in the set of the tides and of a slight subsidence: that many of these reefs and atolls are subject to changes of some kind is certain.

Not only the grand features in the structure of barrier-reefs and of atolls, and to their likeness to each other in form, size, and other characters, are explained on the theory of subsidence -- which theory we are independently forced to admit in the very areas in question, from the necessity of finding bases for the corals within the requisite depth -- but many details in structure and exceptional cases can thus also be simply explained.

We can easily see how an island fronted only on one side, or on one side with one end or both ends encircled by barrier-reefs, might after long-continued subsidence be converted either into a single wall-like reef, or into an atoll with a great straight spur projecting from it, or into two or three atolls tied together by straight reefs -- all of which exceptional cases actually occur.

As the reef-building corals require food, are preyed upon by other animals, are killed by sediment, cannot adhere to a loose bottom, and may be easily carried down to a depth whence they cannot spring up again, we need feel no surprise at the reefs both of atolls and barriers becoming in parts imperfect.