Four new species of deep sea creature have been discovered off the north west coast of Scotland, exciting researchers who think the presence of three of them could indicate a "cold seep" vent, in which hydrocarbons leak into the water from a fissure in the seabed.
Two species of clam — Thyasira scotiae and Isorropodon mackayi — and a marine worm, which was actually found living inside one of the clams and has yet to be named, were found at a depth of about three quarters of a mile at a suspected cold seep during surveys around the Rockall coast in the north Atlantic by researchers from Marine Scotland.
If confirmed, the cold seep would be the first to be discovered in the area and could lead to controls on fishing.
A large 10cm/4" sea snail (pictured above) which has been named Volutopsius scotiae, was also discovered during the survey, living at a depth of about a mile.
Both Volutopsius scotiae and Thyasira scotiae have been named after the research vessel MRV Scotia, while Isorropodon mackayi has been named after mollusc expert David W Mackay.
Jim Drewery from Marine Scotland Science, said: "The discovery of these new species is absolutely incredible, especially when you consider that the sea snail measures a relatively large 4", yet has gone undetected for decades.
"The project we were undertaking was designed to provide advice that would help balance both commercial fishing and conservation interests in the Rockall area.
"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."
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...The area where these species were found is not fished and the confirmation of a cold seep is likely to result in the region being closed to bottom contact fishing."
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