Biodiversity of the Mingulay Reefs

350 species and counting...

Like other Lophelia reefs, those at Mingulay are home to many other animals. The reefs form a city beneath the sea with vertical coral walls extending upwards for several metres to large white expanses of live coral exposed to the full force of water currents. Between the reefs are hollows and crevices sheltered from the water currents where other animals can live in the sands and mud trapped in the dead coral branches.

All these different habitats provide a huge variety of niches for other species. Like the Lophelia corals themselves, animals that catch their prey from the water currents tend to perch high up in the reef structures or in areas between reefs where the turbulent waters are slowed.

Over the last seven years researchers have begun to build up a picture of the biodiversity at Mingulay. So far over 350 different animals have been recorded including 100 species of sponges alone. Among the sponges was a previously unknown species that lives by boring into the dead coral skeletons. In honour of its Scottish origins, this was named Cliona caledoniae by Rob van Soest and Elly Beglinger from the University of Amsterdam.

You can see examples of some of the animals living on the Mingulay reefs on our video page.

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