Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Flames under the sea

A survey to help locate sites for new marine protected areas has turned up perhaps the largest colony of flame shells, Limaria hians, anywhere in the world. The bed located at the bottom of Loch Alsh in western Scotland, contains at least 100 million individuals and covers 75 hectares.

The flame shell, Limaria hians (photo Wikipedia)
The flame shell is a bivalve mollusk that feeds by extending many orange tentacles out of its shell snaring food from the water column much like corals do. They grow to a maximum of about 4cm long, but most are around 2.5cm. Preserving flame shell beds is a conservation priority because they form nest-like structures that stabilise coarse sandy substrate giving other plants and animals a place to grow.

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