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Newly-discovered worm has eyes in head and bottom 

The previously unknown species was found by scientists off the coast of Shetland.

Worm: New species found during survey.
Worm: New species found during survey. Ruth Barnich

A unique species of worm with two sets of eyes - one on its head and the other on its bottom - has been discovered off the coast of Shetland.

The new species was found by a team of scientists from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Marine Scotland Science (MSS) during a survey of the West Shetland Shelf Marine Protected Area.

Their research is the first full survey of the animal life in the area, which is roughly the size of the Cairngorm National Park.

The worm was identified by a team led by Ruth Barnich of Thomson Environmental Consultants, Julio Parapar from the University of La Coruña and Juan Moreira from the Autonomous University of Madrid.

Following the worm's discovery, it has been given the scientific name Ampharete oculicirrata and added to the collections of National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh.

Jessica Taylor, marine evidence advisor at JNCC, said: "This new species is an exciting and interesting addition to the work we do in Marine Protected Areas.

"The fact that it was found in relatively shallow depths, relatively close to the Scottish coastline, shows just how much more there is to understand about the creatures that live in our waters.

"I'm excited about future JNCC and Marine Scotland surveys and what they may reveal. And it's great that specimens of the new species have been acquired by National Museums Scotland and are available for future studies."

Ruth Barnich, a principal scientist in the marine team at Thomson, said: "It's always fascinating to work on offshore samples.

"In those collected by JNCC and MSS at 100 - 600 metres depth, we saw many rare and unusual species which are typical of deeper waters, such as brittle stars and various polychaetes and shrimps."

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