An extinct underwater volcano off north west Scotland is the site of “important and vulnerable” marine ecosystems, scientists have found.
They described the Rosemary Bank Seamount as having a prominence similar to Britain’s tallest peak, Ben Nevis.
New analysis has identified different communities of creatures living at various depths on the seamount.
The scientists said the most “extensive and unusually diverse” of these animals were deep-sea sponges.
Cold water corals and fish such as orange roughy, blue ling, leafscale gulper shark and the Portuguese dogfish have also been recorded.
Four distinct communities of fish were found, with the first on its summit then at different levels on its slopes and the last in a “deep moat” at the base of the extinct volcano.
But the scientists said sponges “dominated” the Rosemary Bank Seamount.
Previous surveys estimated that it provided a habitat to about 88 million sponges.