Putting the focus (back onto) the marine world – Experts believe the colony of Limaria hians in Loch Alsh, a sea inlet between Skye and mainland, is the largest of its kind. The Guardian reports
The discovery of a large shellfish reef on the west coast of the UK could be the biggest find of its kind in the world, experts believe.
The reef, made up of more than 100 million brightly coloured and rare flame shells, or Limaria hians, was found in Loch Alsh, a sea inlet between Skye and the Scottish mainland. It covers an area of 4.6 sq miles (7.5 sq km) and was discovered during a survey commissioned by Marine Scotland. It is the largest known colony of flame shells in the UK and possibly the world, say experts.
“With Scottish waters covering an area around five times bigger than our landmass, it’s a huge challenge to try and understand more about our diverse and precious sea life.
“This important discovery may be the largest grouping of flame shells anywhere in the world.
“And not only are flame shells beautiful to look at, these enigmatic shellfish form a reef that offers a safe and productive environment for many other species.”
Flame shells have a similar shape to scallops, with many neon orange tentacles that appear between the two shells. They group together on the sea bed and their nests create a living reef to support hundreds of other species.
The Loch Alsh survey was carried out by Heriot-Watt University on behalf of Marine Scotland. Dr Dan Harries, from the university’s school of life sciences, said: “Too often, when we go out to check earlier records of a particular species or habitat we find them damaged, struggling or even gone.
“We are delighted that in this instance we found not just occasional patches but a huge and thriving flame shell community extending right the way along the entrance narrows of Loch Alsh. This is a wonderful discovery for all concerned.”
Ben James, marine survey and monitoring manager at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Whilst we had some records of flame shells in Loch Alsh, we had no idea how big the bed was.
“It’s great to have this new information and it’s yet another example of the fantastic diversity of Scotland’s marine environment.”
Hatton Bank, near the Isle of Lewis, covers about 9,752 sq miles (15,694 sq km) and features a large volcanic bank which is home to a large variety of corals.
WWF Scotland spokesman Lang Banks said: “These surveys highlight that Scotland’s seas and coasts are home to a truly amazing range of stunning wildlife.
“Who needs space travel when we’ve still to fully explore and understand the oceans and seas here on planet Earth?”
- Shellfish reef off UK’s west coast could be biggest in world (independent.co.uk)
- ‘Huge’ flame shell bed discovered (bbc.co.uk)
- World’s biggest shellfish reef found in Britain (telegraph.co.uk)
- Shellfish reef ‘huge and thriving’ (standard.co.uk)
- Scottish Shellfish Reef ‘Is World’s Largest’ (news.sky.com)
- Shellfish reef ‘huge and thriving’ (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)
- Scottish News: Shellfish reef ‘huge and thriving’ (acadvertiser.co.uk)