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Wormy reflections - Blog #5

By Joey O'Connor

1219SWest Shetland ShelfOffshore Seabed Surveys

Earlier this summer, we were delighted to announce the discovery of a new species of polychaete worm. As our previous blog posts have been describing, we are currently back at West Shetland Shelf Marine Protected Area (MPA) with our colleagues from Marine Scotland Science and the National Museums of Scotland, where in 2017 we collected the 81 specimens of the new worm (Ampharete oculicirrata) which led to its discovery. 

Ampharete oculicirrata specimen collected on 2017 JNCC/Marine Scotland Science survey to West Shetland Shelf MPA (image courtesy of National Museum of Scotland).


Both surveys form part of a wider programme of UK offshore MPA monitoring. As part of this work, we go to sea with partners including Marine Scotland Science to gather data to monitor the condition of habitats and biological communities, including those containing Ampharete oculicirrata, in MPAs located across the UK’s offshore waters.

Every year we are astounded by the richness of marine life at the bottom of the UK’s seas, from the seapens and burrowing crustaceans we find in the North Sea (see 1515S survey blog) to the fish, sponges and cold-water corals found in the deeper waters to the north and west of Scotland (see 1218S survey blog), as well as what we encounter above the waves.

The discovery of the new worm species has been a timely reminder of how much we know and of how much more we have to discover. 

Dolphins alongside MRV Scotia


Please check back for more blog posts and follow the JNCC Twitter feed for more exciting updates!

Worm facts

  • Ampharetes are marine Polychaetes, also known as bristle worms.
  • Many different species of bristle worms are found in our samples across a wide range of seafloor habitat types in UK waters.
  • These can be filter feeders, deposit feeders and even carnivores.
  • Bristle worms are important as there are many of them and they occupy many different levels of the food chain.
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