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- noun Plural form of
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The gelatinous rock-building polypifers die almost at once, if exposed to the sun or if left uncovered by water.
Sometimes, at very low tide, if you have courage enough to risk being swept away by the breakers, going as far out on the reef as you can, you may catch a glimpse of them in their living state -- great mounds and masses of what seems rock, but which is a honeycomb of coral, whose cells are filled with the living polypifers.
On a coral reef you are treading on rock that the reef-building polypifers of ages have left behind them as evidences of their idle and apparently useless lives.
The naturalist will feel this astonishment more deeply after having examined the soft and almost gelatinous bodies of these apparently insignificant coral-polypifers, and when he knows that the solid reef increases only on the outer edge, which day and night is lashed by the breakers of an ocean never at rest.
Considering the probability of subsidence in the middle of the great oceans being very slow; considering in how many spaces, both large ones and small ones (within areas favourable to the growth of corals), reefs are absent, which shows that their presence is determined by peculiar conditions; considering the possible chance of subsidence being more rapid than the upward growth of the reefs; considering that reefs not very rarely perish (as I cannot doubt) on part, or round the whole, of some encircled islands and atolls: considering these things, I admit as very improbable that the polypifers should continue living on and above the same reef during a subsidence of very many thousand feet; and therefore that they should form masses of enormous thickness, say at most above 5,000 feet.
Sir R. Murchison, whose much more close and extensive acquaintance with fossils enabled him to assign to the deposit its true place, was struck, however, with the general resemblance of its polypifers to "those of the
These polypifers occur in only the lower Lias of Skye. [