[Coral-List] Origin of term "hermatypic"

Charles Booth booth at easternct.edu
Mon Jun 16 11:25:20 EDT 2008

Can someone tell me the origin of the term ³hermatypic² as it pertains to
reef-building corals?* I know it refers to the Greek God, Hermes, but how
did the term come to be used to describe corals (i.e., who first used the
term, and when)? 

I seem to recall reading, many years ago, that hermatypic referred not so
much to the God himself, but, rather, to the stone busts of the Gods made by
ancient Greek sculptors. If that is true, why single out Hermes? The
Wikipedia entry for Hermes certainly doesn¹t offer much (that I can see) to
connect him to coral reefs:

Olympian god of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds
and cowherds, of thieves and road travelers, of orators and wit, of
literature and poets, of athletics, of weights and measures, of invention,
of general commerce, and of the cunning of thieves and liars.[1] The
analogous Roman deity is Mercury.
The Homeric hymn to Hermes invokes him as the one "of many shifts
(polytropos), blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of
dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show
forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods."[2]

I¹ve checked half a dozen books in my office, and numerous online
references, but none explains the connection. I would be grateful if someone
(Tom Goreau, perhaps?) could clarify this.


Chuck Booth

* The precise definition of hermatypic, as used by geologists and coral reef
biologists, is a separate issue (Schuhmacher, H. and H. Zibrowius, 1985,
What is hermatypic? Coral Reefs Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.1-9;
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1985CorRe...4....1S). I just want to know how
³hermatypic² became associated with reef-building corals.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Dr. Charles E. Booth
Dept. of Biology
Eastern Connecticut State University
Willimantic, CT  06226

Ph: 860-465-5260
Email: booth at easternct.edu
FAX:  860-465-5213

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