December 30, 2011

New Aquatic Animals Found In Scottish Waters

A brainless and faceless fish was one of 15 species discovered this year in a series of Scottish marine excavations.

The amphioxus was found in Tankerness in Orkney.  It has a nerve cord down its back and is said to be regarded as a representative of the first animals to evolve a backbone.

Scientists also discovered giant mussels with shells measuring 18-inches around the Small Isles.  These are said to be the largest sea shells in Scotland.

Over 100 specimens of the Fan Mussels were found around the islands, which shows that the area has the largest aggregation of the fish in the U.K. waters.

The mussels are said to have golden threads similar to human hair, which are so fine they are able to attach to a single grain of sand.

The scientists also found flame shell beds in Loch Linnhe, Argyll, as well as northern feather star communities.

The Scottish government said the findings would further the country's knowledge of the biodiversity of its seas.

"In an age where the lands of the world have been mapped out and recorded, it's amazing how many discoveries are waiting to be found under the waves," Scotland's environment secretary, Richard Lochhead, said in a statement.

"Spanning from the weird to the wonderful, discoveries this year have included the bizarre amphioxus and the beautiful yet elusive brightly colored flame shell. The waters around Scotland are rich in such fascinating biodiversity and it's our responsibility to protect this fragile environment."

The scientists covered more than 2,000 square miles of land during their expedition.

Dr. Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said in a statement: "These surveys highlight that Scotland's seas and coasts are home to a truly amazing range of weird and wonderful wildlife. By providing vital information on what lies beneath the waves, these surveys will help inform decisions on better ways to protect this important resource now and long into the future.

"From helping inform the appropriate deployment of marine renewables to supporting the rollout of a network of Marine Protected Areas, these survey findings will prove invaluable in helping ensure the recovery of Scotland's seas. It is important that the government builds on this survey work to further our knowledge of the marine environment."