Survey finds 'faceless and brainless fish' in Scottish waters

December 30, 2011
Amphioxus - a "faceless and brainless" fish-like creature. Image: Courtesy Scottish Government

A series of 15 marine surveys in 2011, covering over 2,000 square miles, have uncovered rare species and furthered our knowledge of the biodiversity of Scotland's seas.

Off the west coast, very rare Fan Mussels were found - at up to 48 cm long, this is Scotland's largest . 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.

In the waters off Tankerness in Orkney, the prehistoric 'faceless and brainless fish' Amphioxus was uncovered. This elusive, rarely seen species is regarded as a modern representative of the first animals that evolved a backbone. With a nerve cord down its back, this strange has no specific brain or face.

The largest Horse Mussel bed in Scotland was revealed in waters near Noss Head, Caithness. Horse Mussels stabilise mobile seabeds and provide a critical ecosystem for other species. Known as 'Clabbydhhu' in Gaelic (translates as 'enormous black mouth') these slow-growing can live to nearly 50 years old.

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. Meanwhile new communities of Northern Feather Star - a brightly coloured species with 10 feather-like arms fanning out from a central disc - were revealed off the Sound of Canna.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"In an age where the lands of the world have been mapped out and recorded, it's amazing how many discoveries are waiting to be found under the waves. Spanning from the weird to the wonderful, discoveries this year have included the bizarre Amphioxus and the beautiful yet elusive brightly coloured Flame Shell.

"The waters around Scotland are rich in such fascinating biodiversity and it's our responsibility to protect this fragile environment. That's why we have ramped up our marine survey work, with plans being prepared for new surveys in 2012 to further our knowledge of what lies beneath Scotland's seas."

The survey this year benefited from the use of the latest technology, with acoustic multi-beam scanners used to create 3D images of the seabed. As a result, first-ever marine maps of many new areas was possible, including waters around Rockall, to the west of the Outer Hebrides, around the Isle of Canna and within Sinclair Bay in Caithness.

Susan Davies, director of policy and advice with Scottish Natural Heritage, added:

"With many new discoveries 2011 has been an exciting year for everyone involved in the marine surveys around Scotland. Working with scientists from our partner organisations has not only been enjoyable, pooling our resources has enabled us to cover a far greater area and learn so much more about the life our seas support.

"Scotland's seas really are a fantastic asset. The findings from these surveys will help us to manage them sustainably and ensure future generations can also enjoy the benefits of a healthy and diverse marine environment."

The survey methods included use of acoustic multi-beam scanning to create a 3D image of the seabed, underwater videoing and photography, and sea bed sediment sampling. Marine Scotland coordinated the survey in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Northern Lighthouse Board, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, British Geological Survey (NERC) and Scotland's science institutions.

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not rated yet Dec 30, 2011
'Faceless and brainless' - the possible similes are very tempting!
1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2011
When I pointed this story out to my self-proclaimed alcoholic Scots chef mate he said, "Y'sure they didn't just find me face down in the Clyde one time?"
not rated yet Dec 30, 2011
" this strange fish has no specific brain or face. "

..oddly enough, like many people I encounter daily :O
5 / 5 (4) Dec 30, 2011
Many are being considered for positions with EU leadership in Brussels.
1 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2011
Brainless? I find that hard to believe, in fish anyway.
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2011
The U.S. Republican party should immediately adopt this fish as it's favorite animal since they emulate it in so many ways.
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 31, 2011
The U.S. Republican party should immediately adopt this fish as it's favorite animal since they emulate it in so many ways.

While you're at it, include the Democrat Party.

Vote them all out in 2012.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2011
That "fish" (cephalochordate group) is taxonomically more distant from bony fishes, than sharks (cartilaginous fishes).


Its predecessor replicated its genes accidentally in such a way, most of them were heavily redundant before four hundreds millions of years, when this event happened. The contemporary Amphioxus uses most of these free genes not for expansion to another life environments, but for building of impressive immunity apparatus, which we could use for fight with most existing bacteria. That "primitive fish" is therefore very complex animal not at macroscopic level, but at molecular level. It's typical example of defensive strategy of evolution.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 31, 2011
Many single-cellular protozoa, which are feeding with bacteria have very large genomes as well - some of them much larger, than human. It enables them to consume virtually all bacteria, which they can find and swallow. Because every bacteria developed different chemical strategy prohibiting its consummation, the organism, which are using bacteria as a food must have wide portfolio of digesting enzymes, strong protection against bacterial toxins and immune apparatus.
1 / 5 (3) Dec 31, 2011
"Vote them all out in 2012." - Ab3a

I can't think of any faster way to complete corporate control of your nation.

"While you're at it, include the Democrat Party." - Ab3a

You just can't stand the fact that the Democrats once again have saved your nation from a decades long Republican Depression.


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