British Deep-water Coral Lophelia pertusa

The first recorded specimens from British waters of the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa

During the early nineteenth century, four specimens of the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa were obtained from Scottish waters by local fishermen. Two were from off the Shetland Islands and two from the Inner Hebrides. They are important in that they are the earliest records of Lophelia from British waters.

The specimen on display is one of the four. Weighing 2.48 kg, it was brought up in 1845, from a depth of around 150 metres between the islands of Rum and Eigg. In March, 1846, the coral was exhibited by Professor J. Fleming at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and was then deposited in the museum of King's College, Aberdeen.

The British Museum (Natural History) collections contain a small, 9 gram specimen presented by Fleming in 1849. Their small specimen fits the Aberdeen one quite perfectly at the point shown in red, indicating that it was broken off sometime between 1845 and 1849.

For further details see:

WILSON, J.B., 1979. The first recorded specimens of the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa (Linnaeus 1758) from British waters. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Zoology Series, 36, pp. 209-215.

Lophelia pertusa towards the next millennium

After more than a century of consideration as a mere academic curiosity, research on Lophelia is acquiring a new sense of urgency (see, for example, an article in the Summer 2000 edition of NERC News.) The species occurs over large areas of the sea bed in deep water west of the Shetland Isles. This area is the focus of new exploration and development by the oil and gas industry. Also, fishermen are increasingly trawling in the deeper waters where Lophelia is to be found.

The government and oil industry are currently funding a project led by Dr. John Gage of the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (SAMS) entitled: Sensitives of cold water corals and other large benthic fauna in relation to oil/gas activities west of Shetland.

The first step is to map areas of Lophelia so that they can be avoided by fishermen and so that the scale of any problem can be understood.

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