April 18, 2014, 4:42 pm

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Mingulay Reef Complex

Scotland's only known inshore coral reef

Coral reefs and Scotland might not seem to go together, but in fact a large coral reef has been growing just 13 km from the Island of Mingulay for at least the last 5000 years. The reefs were only discovered in 2003 when the area was mapped using modern mapping sonar techniques. The new surveys revealed several reefs of Lophelia pertusa corals forming what is now known as the Mingulay Reef Complex. Before then corals in this area had been occasionally caught by fishermen and recorded by Victorian naturalists. The only person to report live Lophelia in the area was John Wilson who saw a few scattered colonies from the Pisces II submersible in 1970.

The modern sonar surveys gave a glimpse of a hidden world but threw up many questions. Were these the only coral reefs in the area? Why are the corals growing here in particular? What are they feeding on? How old are the reefs?

Since 2003 the Mingulay Reef Complex has become one of the most intensively studied cold-water coral reefs in the world. Researchers from around Europe have teamed up to work out why the reefs are growing there and to study their biodiversity. Follow the links on the left or Go Deeper to discover more.

Click here to go deeper!