Four Previously Unknown Marine Species Discovered Near Scotland
December 29, 2013

Four Previously Unknown Marine Species Discovered Near Scotland

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Four species of sea creatures previously unknown to science have been discovered in deep water off the west coast of Scotland, BBC News and other media outlets reported over the weekend.

The British news agency reported that the new species were discovered during surveys conducted by Marine Scotland, the government agency dedicated to maintaining the prosperity and environmental sustainability of the country’s seas. They were all found in the vicinity of Rockall – volcanic remains located 260 miles west of the Western Isles.

The creatures include one new species of large sea snail (Volutopsius scotiae), two new kinds of clams (Thyasira scotiae and Isorropodon mackayi), and a previously unknown marine worm (currently unnamed, but belonging to the genus Antonbrunnia), according to Sarah Hedgecock of Gawker.

The species were found near a suspected cold seep – an area where methane and other hydrocarbons are released from the seabed. The sea snail and one of the clams were named in honor of the research vessel MRV Scotia, while the other clam was named after mollusk expert David Mackay, BBC News said.

“The discovery of these new species is absolutely incredible, especially when you consider that the sea snail measures a relatively large 10cm, yet has gone undetected for decades,” Jim Drewery of Marine Scotland Science told The Courier. “Its capture on these surveys could be due to the new techniques we are now employing at Marine Scotland Science in our research on the deep sea floor.”

“If true, this is no less important a discovery as the much better known hydrothermal vents found in other parts of the world,” WWF Scotland director Lang Banks added in an interview with Robin McKie of The Guardian. “They would give us a unique opportunity to observe some species unlikely to be found anywhere else on the planet.”

Drewery told McKie that he was especially excited by the discovery of the new marine worm species, which is the first creature of its kind to ever be found in the Atlantic Ocean. The worm was discovered by international bivalve expert Graham Oliver, who is affiliated with the National Museum of Wales. Oliver reportedly found the creature while he was examining the inside of one of the new clams while in the process of confirming it as a new species.

“The discovery of the Rockall cold seep and its precious ecology has raised concerns about trawlers fishing in the region,” McKie reported. “Scotland's environment secretary, Richard Lochhead, said the seabed around the cold seep would probably be protected as a result of the discovery of the new species.”