Scottish marine discoveries in 2011

From the Daily Mail in Britain:

Found in British waters: The sea creature that lights up like a Christmas decoration

Rare and elusive species found in marine surveys
Includes prehistoric ‘brainless’ fish
Quill-like ‘sea pen’ lights up when touched

By Rob Waugh

Last updated at 2:36 PM on 29th December 2011

This phosphorescent sea pen was literally the highlight of a series of finds marine surveyors off the coast of Scotland announced in their annual report today.

The studies, using acoustic multi-beam scanners and hi-def cameras, captured several rare and elusive species, including the sea pen – so named because resembles a writer’s quill as well as a Christmas tree. The sea pen is a colony of seabed dwelling polyps that lights up when touched.

Other finds included the prehistoric ‘faceless and brainless fish’ Amphioxus – a modern representative of the first animals that evolved a backbone half a billion years ago.

The elusive, rarely seen Amphioxus was found in the waters off Tankerness in Orkney by marine surveyors this year. Instead of a brain – or face – the fish has a nerve cord running down its back.

One species of Amphioxus recently had its genome sequenced in an attempt to understand the origins of vertebrate life.

Vertebrate life and amphioxus are thought to have descended from a single common ancestor around 550 million years ago.

The species was unearthed in series of 15 marine surveys in 2011, covering over 2,000 square miles using acoustic multi-beam scanners and hi-def cameras.

Dozens of rare, strange species were found in Scottish waters.

Horse mussels were found off Noss Head in Caithness – this slow

The largest Horse Mussel bed in Scotland was revealed in waters near Noss Head, Caithness.

Known as ‘Clabbydhhu’ in Gaelic (translates as ‘enormous black mouth’) these slow-growing molluscs can live to nearly 50 years old.

Off the west coast, very rare Fan Mussels were found – at up to 48 cm long, this is Scotland’s largest sea shell.

Around the Small Isles more than 100 specimens were discovered, the largest aggregation in UK waters.

With golden threads likened to human hair so fine they can attach to a single grain of sand, seamen once believed they fed on drowned sailors.

Other finds included Flame Shell beds in Loch Linnhe, Argyll, a cryptic species only found in a very few west coast locations with bright orange feeding tentacles.

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