PORTREE, Scotland, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A colony of a brightly colored shellfish species discovered in coastal waters in the west of Scotland may be the largest in the world, officials said.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said the colony of elusive flame shells was discovered during a survey conducted as part of an effort to identify new Marine Protected Areas, the BBC reported Thursday.
Flame shells are small, scallop-like creatures with a mass of bright range tentacles that emerge between their two shells. They congregate in large groups that create reefs that can support supports hundreds of other species, scientists said.
The flame shell reef discovered in Loch Alsh, a sea inlet between the island of Skye and the Scottish mainland, is much larger than expected, covering an area of 185 acres, they said.
"The flame shell must be considered among the most remarkable species in our waters," Lochhead said.
"Many would place such an exotic species in far-flung tropical reefs -- not realizing they dwell under the waves just off the coast of Skye," he said. "This important discovery may be the largest grouping of flame shells anywhere in the world."