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What Does DNA Evidence Suggest about the Loch Ness Monster?

Ever since the Inverness Courier reported a “strange spectacle on Loch Ness” in 1933, people have wondered if there really is a monster swimming in those Scottish waters. Some have gone to great lengths to prove, or disprove, the existence of the monster affectionately known as "Nessie," but no proof has ever materialized. In 2019, a study of the loch’s biodiversity did not find DNA evidence of a prehistoric plesiosaur, or any other monster. However, the 250 samples of water taken at different locations and depths did indicate the presence of 3,000 distinct species, including birds, fish, and amphibians -- but no reptiles, lizards, or adders. However, Neil Gemmell, a geneticist from New Zealand's University of Otago, couldn’t rule out that Nessie might be an eel that’s grown to an extraordinary size.

Cue the scary music:

  • “There are large amounts of eel DNA in Loch Ness. We don't know if the eel DNA we are detecting is gigantic, from a gigantic eel, or just many small eels,” Gemmell said. There is huge variation in size among eel species, which can be as small as 2 inches (5 cm) to as long as 13 feet (4 m).
  • In the years since the first report, there have been many high-profile attempts to find the Loch Ness Monster. For example, in 2003, the BBC paid for an elaborate search with 600 sonar beams. Nothing was found.
  • The well-known 1934 photo that purported to be Nessie was later debunked. The long-necked monster image is believed to have been a toy submarine with a serpent-like head and neck attached.
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