Book Feature: Arabische Korallen

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Arabische Korallen (1875) by Ernst Haeckel is one of his lesser known publications. Written in German, this book blends scientific explorations of Red Sea coral and travel observations and anecdotes about life in Egypt.

Ernst Haeckel (16 February 1834 to 9 August 1919) was a scientist, naturalist, and scientific illustrator whose works remain incredibly popular. His unique artistic style soon becomes easily recognizable. This lesser known work of his can be found in a digital version in Biodiversity Heritage Library thanks to Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.


This page shows the artistic style that Haeckel perfected. He combines multiple species in great detail on one page in an artistic and pleasing arrangement. Often with other types of biodiversity in his other works, he creates a scene with the species interacting with their environment.

For each figure, Haeckel provides the German common name, the binomial nomenclature, the scientist responsible for the first discovery and naming of the species, and the taxonomic family for the species. The taxonomy for these corals (names in bold) has likely changed since the publishing of this work. When researching marine life taxonomy for Biodiversity Heritage Library, I frequently use World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), which is an excellent resource for linking current information with these historical illustrations.

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Haeckel also included a detailed marine life illustration of a coral reef near Sinai, Egypt.

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If you look carefully, you’ll see numbers and Roman numerals along the sides of the illustration that correspond to this list of species. You can zoom in more easily on the page in BHL.


In addition to specimen illustrations, Haeckel captured life around Sinai, Egypt.

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This last scene is of the Red Sea, Sinai, and the mountains in Egypt.

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Discover more of Ernst Haeckel’s works in Biodiversity Heritage Library!