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Rare 'faceless and brainless' fish seen off UK coast

Amphioxus - a
Amphioxus - aAndrew Want - Marine Scotland / Courtesy Scottish Government

 A rare species of fish described as “faceless and brainless” was among the unusual finds made by marine scientists off Britain’s coast, according to a Scottish government report published on Thursday.

The prehistoric amphioxus species, which grows to about two inches long and has no fins, was recorded off Orkney, part of the Northern Isles that lie off the far northern coast of mainland Scotland.

The elusive fish is regarded as a modern representative of the first animals that evolved a backbone, the Scottish government said.

With a nerve cord down its back, it has no specific brain or face. According to The Scotsman newspaper, it has a translucent, fish-like body but has no true skeleton.

It is usually found buried in sand in shallow parts of temperate or tropical seas, the newspaper said. In Asia, the species is harvested commercially to use as food for pets.

Other rare finds from the marine surveys, which covered over 2,000 square miles, included giant mussels with shells measuring up to 18 inches and new communities of Northern Feather Star, a brightly colored species with 10 feather-like arms fanning out from a central disc, which were revealed off the Sound of Canna, near Skye.

The Scottish Government said the findings will further the country's knowledge of the biodiversity of its seas.

Scottish Natural Heritage and Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University were among organizations that carried out the work.

Underwater video was shot and acoustic and 3D images were used in the surveys.

Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy with environmental campaign group WWF Scotland, added: “These surveys highlight that Scotland’s seas and coasts are home to a truly amazing range of weird and wonderful wildlife.

“By providing vital information on what lies beneath the waves, these surveys will help inform decisions on better ways to protect this important resource.”

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