The world’s largest colony of a ‘brilliant but shy’ species of shellfish has been found at the bottom of a loch in the Highlands.
Around 250,000,000 flame shells were found during survey works at Loch Carron, which is a Marine Protected Area (MPA).
It follows a discovery in 2012 of a colony of more than 100,000,000 of the molluscs, which lived in Loch Alsh.
Flame shells are lovely, small bivalve molluscs that have fiery orange tentacles adn spend most of their lives hidden away inside nests.
A huge 185-hectare bed in the MPA has been foremd by these nests, which have all merged together.
Dr Dan Harries, from Heriot-Watt University’s Institute of Life and Earth Sciences, said: ‘This is another fantastic discovery. We really didn’t think we’d finda bed that could top the 100,000,000 find in Loch Alsh.
‘This is a great example of partnership working across Government departments, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and academia to deliver a timely and scientifically robust response.’
Mike Cantlay, SNH’s chairman, added: ‘Scotland’s seas clearly still have many secrets left to tell.
‘This is a remarkable discovery and I think we should be proud that our rich waters are so important to flame shells, and as our marine research and survey work continues to reveal, many other wonderful species too.’
The discovery was made by an SNH, Marine Scotland and Heriot-Watt University survey to learn more about creatures living in Loch Carron.
An MPA is designated on an urgent basis and usually lasts for a maximum of two years, but there are plans to give Loch Carron the status permanently.
Announcing the designation, Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham launched a wider review of vulnerable habitats to identify where else management is needed to prevent further damage or loss.
‘This is a fantastic discovery which shows that the new MPA is making an even more valuable contribution to safeguarding these waters than we first thought,’ she said.
‘I am determined to protect Scotland’s rich marine environment as this example shows the importance of considering how our seas are conserved beyond the MPA network.
‘We are continuing to work with SNH to review the most vulnerable priority marine features in our coastal waters.’
Flame shell beds support a diverse community of other species, meaning protection of the molluscs conserves hundreds of other species and promotes local biodiversity.
However, they are extremely sensitive to physical disturbances – for example, dredging.
Substantial and persistent declines have been observed, raising widespread concern about the conservation of this species and the habitat it creates.
The post Something very strange has been found at the bottom of a loch (and it’s not Nessie) appeared first on News Wire Now.