Somehow, the thought of beautifully coloured shellfish thriving in the cold waters off Scotland seems unlikely. Yet, scientists are thrilled to have discovered what could be the world's largest shellfish reef in Loch Alsh near the Isle of Skye.
The reef is made up of more than one hundred million shellfish known as Limaria hians or 'flame shells' due to their glorious colouring. The discovery was made by Marine Scotland who were undertaking a survey of sea life around the Scottish coast. Loch Alsh is a sea loch between the Isle of Skye and the Scottish mainland.
According to the Guardian, Scottish Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: "The seas around Scotland are a hotbed of biodiversity and the clean and cold waters support many fascinating and beautiful species.This important discovery may be the largest grouping of flame shells anywhere in the world."
The Scotsman newspaper explains that the flame shells owe their name to the neon-orange tentacles that wave out through the two halves of the creatures' shells. This discovery has caused great excitement in the marine biology world.Dr Dan Harries, of Heriot-Watt University’s School of Life Science 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."
The reef formed by the flame shells, which according to Sky News covers 7.5 square kilometres, is acting as a home to many more forms of marine life and will now be given extra environmental protection.