New sea creatures found

By MSN UK News. Image: Marine Scotland Science
1 of 6 To full screen

Four new species of sea creature have been discovered in deep ocean waters off the coast of Scotland.

A large sea snail, two kinds of clam and a marine worm were found during Marine Scotland surveys around the Rockall plateau in the north Atlantic.

The creatures had previously avoided detection despite decades of research in the area, which is located hundreds of miles off the north-west coast.

This picture shows the head of an antonbrunnia, or marine worm, which was one of the species found during the surveys. It has yet to be formally named, and is currently being examined at the National Museum of Wales. It's the first of its kind to be found in the Atlantic.

Click or swipe through to see more

Marine Scotland Science
2 of 6 To full screen

This picture shows another of the discoveries: the clam Thyasira scotiae.

It has been named after the research vessel MRV Scotia.

Researchers say the existence of the clams and worm at a single site could indicate the presence of a cold seep, which is when hydrocarbons are released from the sea bed.

If confirmed it would be the first cold seep to be discovered in the Rockall area.

Marine Scotland Science
3 of 6 To full screen

The sea snail Volutopsius scotiae was also among the discoveries.

It has also been named after the research vessel MRV Scotia .

Jim Drewery from Marine Scotland Science, who oversaw the research on the deep water invertebrates, 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."

Marine Scotland Science
4 of 6 To full screen

This picture shows the marine worm inside one of the clams.

The worm was discovered by international bivalve expert Dr Graham Oliver inside one of the clams he was confirming as a new species at his laboratory at the National Museum of Wales.

Scotland's Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Scottish waters cover an area around five times bigger than our land mass and are miles deep in places, and these hidden gems offer a fascinating glimpse of the treasures that still await discovery under the waves.

"The area where these species were found is not currently fished and the confirmation of a cold seep is likely to result in the region being closed to bottom contact fishing."

Marine Scotland Science
5 of 6 To full screen

The fourth of the new species: Isorropodon mackayi.

This clam has been named after mollusc expert David W Mackay.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "Perhaps only in Scotland would you find people getting excited about something known as a 'cold seep'.

"However, if true, then it is no less important a discovery as the much better known hydrothermal vents, found in other parts of the world. They would give us a unique opportunity to observe some species unlikely to be found anywhere else on the planet.

"These latest discoveries underline the need for a precautionary approach in the management and use of our seas."

Marine Scotland Science
6 of 6 To full screen

Another picture of the sea snail Volutopsius scotae.

"The project we were undertaking was designed to provide advice that would help balance both commercial fishing and conservation interests in the Rockall area," explained Jim Drewery from Marine Scotland Science.

"The potential cold seep and its dependant community of marine life is a great find as it is just the sort of habitat we were hoping to pick up on these surveys.

"Marine Scotland Science has been able to narrow down the location of the potential cold seep to a small area 260 miles west of the Hebrides in the Rockall-Hatton basin. Further research is now needed, which would involve going down to take a look at the ocean floor three-quarters of a mile underwater."