Topline: Scientists conducted DNA testing of Scotland’s famed Loch Ness and now believe its fabled monster could have been a giant eel—and definitely not a dinosaur.
- The DNA was collected from water samples by scientists at New Zealand’s University of Otago.
- Water samples analyzed for DNA are actually referred to as “environmental DNA” by scientists.
- After analyzing the samples, scientists determined that a large amount of eel DNA was present. They conjecture that the myth of the Loch Ness monster, nicknamed “Nessie,” may have in fact sprung from a giant eel in its waters.
- “We can’t exclude the possibility that there’s a giant eel in Loch Ness, but we don’t know whether these samples we’ve collected are from a giant beast or just an ordinary one. So there’s still this element of ‘we just don’t know,” said geneticist and professor Neil Gemmel.
- The scientists were studying the loch’s biodiversity and not specifically searching for proof of the Loch Ness monster.
- No reptilian DNA was found in the water samples. But scientists determined that approximately 3,000 different species do live in Loch Ness.
Key background: The legend of the Loch Ness monster dates back to the 6th century, when Irish monk St. Columba wrote of a “water beast” dwelling in its depths. A 1934 photo, called the “surgeon’s photo,” is the most famous image of the Loch Ness monster on record. It was later determined to be a hoax, consisting of a model dinosaur head mounted on a toy submarine. In 2003, the BBC funded a full sonar and satellite sweep of Loch Ness, which turned up zero monsters.
Surprising fact: In 2016, a full-size model of a dinosaur-like Nessie was found in Loch Ness. It was used in a Billy Wilder’s 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and it had sunk to the bottom of the loch.