Corals and Coralline Organisms in Seri Culture: Traditional and Modern Uses

  • Nemer E. Narchi
  • Cathy Moser Marlett
  • Hans Bertsch
Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)


The cultural importance that corals and coralline organisms have played in coastal societies worldwide is highlighted by the great diversity of direct and indirect uses given to these organisms. Among the most ubiquitous ethnobiological traits of corals and coralline organisms is their inclusion in local pharmacopoeias for at least 5000 years. In this chapter, we offer a condensed history of the use of black coral (genus Antipathes) in pharmacopoeias around the world to then center our discussion around the relevance of corals and rhodoliths in Seri culture. Seri ecological knowledge has undergone a process of erosion since the twentieth century. Nonetheless, a few people are still knowledgeable in the identification and use of medicinal organisms, some of which remain unreported, and understudied, as is the case of Seri knowledge of black coral. We show that corals have been used by the Seris as tools, ornaments, and medicine, for which we registered the uses, gathering techniques, and, regarding medicine, the posologies used for each organism. New systematic observation of traditional management and use of corals and coralline organisms should be beneficial for constructing models of conservation and sustainable exploitation of these fragile species.


Seri Sonora Black coral Rhodoliths Gulf of California Indigenous ecological knowledge Marine ethnomedicine 



We are deeply indebted to the Seri men and women who have shared their knowledge with us. The final manuscript improved greatly with the helpful comments of Steve Marlett, Natalia Martínez Tagüeña, and Lisa Price. We are also grateful to Scott Bennet for allowing us to use his image. Research was partially supported by CONACYT’s Beca de Estudios en el Extranjero #197422 and approved by the University of Georgia Human Subjects Institutional Review Board on February 12, 2008, project number 2008-10528-0


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nemer E. Narchi
    • 1
  • Cathy Moser Marlett
    • 2
  • Hans Bertsch
    • 3
  1. 1.Centro de Estudios en Geografía HumanaEl Colegio de MichoacánLa PiedadMéxico
  2. 2.SIL InternationalDallasUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de Investigaciones OceanologicasUniversidad Autónoma de Baja CaliforniaEnsenadaMexico

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