Loch Ness is a stunning lake in the Scottish Highlands and with a surface area of 56 square kilometers (22 square miles), it is the second-largest freshwater lake in the European country. But its worldwide claim to fame is less about its beauty or physical characteristics and more to do with the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, an aquatic beast said to live in the water.
The popularity of Nessie, as the fictional monster is nicknamed, first arose in the 1930s and since then "sightings" have multiplied. Several scientific investigations have looked for evidence of the creature but failed to find any, because monsters are not real.
If you are curious about what might be behind some of the sightings (beyond pranks and floating logs), a group of researchers from New Zealand has tried to catalog all living species present in the loch by extracting DNA from water samples. The team did not find any unusual DNA from creatures like catfish or Greenland sharks, which have previously been put forward to explain Nessie sightings.
"There is a very significant amount of eel DNA. Eels are very plentiful in Loch Ness, with eel DNA found at pretty much every location sampled – there are a lot of them. So – are they giant eels?” project leader Professor Neil Gemmell, a geneticist from New Zealand's University of Otago, told BBC News. "Well, our data doesn't reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can't discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness. Therefore, we can't discount the possibility that what people see and believe is the Loch Ness Monster might be a giant eel."
The idea that giant eels are behind the legendary creature has been circulating for decades but it has often been dismissed as the animals swim side to side, like how a snake moves. Plesiosaurs have also been suggested to explain the sightings, despite the fact this group of creatures went extinct 66 million years ago.
A recent video, published just a few days before the new research came out, showed an eel in the River Ness, which flows out of the loch. The Ness Fishery Board, who shared the video, commented on how the sinuous silhouette of an eel in the murky water reminded them of the mythological creature.
[H/T: BBC News]