Discovery of ostracods thought to be a first for Scotland
Rare microscopic creatures have been discovered in caves in the Scottish Highlands.
Researchers found the tiny crustaceans, named ostracods, in the famous Smoo Cave in Sutherland and Allt nan Uamh Stream Cave in Assynt.
The discovery of the creatures is a result of six years of work and is thought to be a first for Scotland.
The ostracods measure at around one millimetre in size and were found residing in pools inside the caves.
According to a study published in the Cave and Karst Science journal, the crustaceans were found as a result of a preliminary expedition sampling 32 caves across Scotland since 2015.
Scientists Lee Knight and Dominika Wroblewska made the discovery last year.
Dr Knight told the BBC: “Styglobitic creatures live entirely below the earth’s surface and preliminary findings show that one particular ostracod could be the first recorded in Scotland.
“The specimens have been tentatively identified as Fabaeformiscandona latens from Allt nan Uamh Stream Cave and Smoo Cave, these are of importance because records of this genus are very rare in Britain.”
The caves in which the creatures were found are popular destinations in Scotland, with Allt nan Uamh – also known as the ‘Bone Caves’ – famous for its caving networks and Smoo Cave known for its supernatural histories and alleged use by smugglers.
Smoo Cave is also known as the site where famed highwayman, Donald McMurdo, is said to have murdered his victims and disposed of their bodies by throwing them into the caves blowhole.