Scientists Have Analyzed DNA From Loch Ness, And They Made A "Surprising" Discovery

An artistic representation of Nessie the Loch Ness monster. Kevin Sr./Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientists analyzing water samples for evidence of the Loch Ness monster have, apparently, made a “surprising” discovery.

Yes, it is more than fair to raise a skeptical eyebrow at this news. Particularly as we haven’t actually been given any new information on the matter just yet – the team is not expected to announce their findings until next month.

“We’ve tested each one of the main monster hypotheses, and three of them we can probably say aren’t right and one of them might be,” Professor Neil Gemmell, a genomic and reproduction specialist at the University of Otago, teased in an interview with The Scotsman.

Gemmell is leading research analyzing samples of Loch Ness water to find DNA traces from marine-dwelling organisms – and, of course, evidence of Nessie itself.

Unsurprisingly, mentions of a mythical aquatic beast is attracting quite a lot of attention. However, the real purpose of the study is to draw up an organic profile of the various different organisms and micro-organisms hiding in the Scottish lake.

To do so, the team is exploiting a relatively new technique called environmental DNA sampling (or eDNA), which can be used to track animals without harming or disturbing the creatures. Just last year, scientists were able to identify six previously unseen species of shark using eDNA collected in the New Caledonian archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.

Already, the team has discovered 15 species of fish and up to 3,000 species of bacteria, The Scotsman reports. The initial plan was to publish the findings in January, but the process of cataloging such a wide-ranging group of organisms has taken longer than anticipated.

“What we’ll have achieved is what we set out to do, which is document the biodiversity of Loch Ness in June 2018 in some level of detail,” Gemmell explained.

The infamous "Surgeon's Photograph", taken in 1934 and later found out to be a hoax. Steve Pike/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

As for Nessie, Gemmell has previously said that he is skeptical about the monster’s existence but will keep an open mind when it comes to the results of the DNA analysis.

So far, the evidence in favor of the Loch Ness monster's existence is limited to sketchy recordings, blurry photographs, dubious sounding tales – some dating as far back as the 6th century.

One of the leading theories (as hinted at by Gemmell) suggests that Nessie is, in fact, a sturgeon or giant catfish. More out-there theories claim that it is a long-necked plesiosaur that managed to survive the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event – and live on in secret for the last 65 million years. (Needless to say, it's highly unlikely.) 

More recently, research has suggested that the sudden flurry of Nessie sightings in the 1930s can be explained by mass delusions triggered by the discovery of dinosaur fossils dating to the Jurassic and Cretaceous period.

We'll have to wait until next month to find out what Gemmell's "surprising" discovery is, but there is one thing we do know for certain – if by some amazing chance we ever do find evidence of the Loch Ness monster, there are already plans in place to draw up protections for the beast. 

Still, we won't be holding our breath.

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