EDINBURGH, Scotland, June 18 (UPI) -- Marine scientists in Scotland say they've discovered a deep-sea shark spawning ground on the country's only inshore coral reef.
Researchers from Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, who had discovered the reef itself, said they observed egg cases of the blackmouth catshark on the Mingulay Reef in the Outer Hebrides, the BBC reported Tuesday.
Anglers in the area have long fished for the deepwater sharks but this is the first time their spawning grounds have been found in Scotland, the scientists said.
"It's very exciting to find these spawning sites, as there's still relatively little information about deep-sea sharks' habitat across their life cycles," researcher Lea-Anne Henry said.
"Our research at Mingulay, and in even deeper Scottish waters, is now revealing many close links between cold-water corals and the early life stages of sharks, skates and rays."
The European Union is considering designating the site as a marine protected area, she said.
The shark eggs were found nested in corals in a narrow band between 540 feet and 565 feet deep, all located on the leeward side of the reefs, which protects them from being washed away by strong currents.
"The sharks are choosing these sites because they're safe," Henry said. "The corals have lots of hard branches, which deter predators, and laying them away from the current in lower parts of the seabed reduces the risk of eggs drifting away."