A horse mussel surrounded by sea-loch anemones is one of the "weird, wonderful" finds—including brainless "fish"—made in Scottish seas in 2011, the Scottish government announced in December.
Scotland's largest known conglomeration of horse mussels—known as claddbydhhu, or "enormous black mouth," in Gaelic—was found near Noss Head (map). The slow-growing mollusks, which can live up to 50 years, are among the known, if rare, species spotted during 15 ocean surveys sponsored by the Scottish government last year.
(See more pictures of strange-looking sea creatures.)
Covering 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) of ocean, the surveys used new technology, including acoustic multibeam scanners that created 3-D images of the seabed.
The purpose of the surveys was to identify ocean regions vulnerable to pressures such as overfishing, according to Peter Wright, head of the Population Biology Group at the government agency Marine Scotland Science.
The data will help Scottish scientists draw boundaries for potential marine protected areas, part of a new, Europe-wide ocean-conservation effort, Wright said.
(Also see "Pictures: Best Marine Park? Booming Fish Leap and Swarm.")