Scientist Heads to Loch Ness to See If He Can Find Monster DNA
Despite the fact that the famous 1934 photo was revealed to be a toy submarine and that the subsequent "giant footprints" on the Loch's beaches were made using a stuffed hippo foot, the Loch Ness Monster is like Elvis—no matter how much evidence you stack up to the contrary, someone's going to believe they're still alive and well. Or, in the case of Nessie, that she exists at all. Now, Neil Gemmell, a professor at the University of Otago, is going to try and settle the question with DNA.
Modern biology tells us that animals leave all kinds of DNA traces behind as they move, whether it's discarded scales, urine, or bits of skin. With the help of gene-sequencing, Gemmel can isolate bits of DNA from the little bits of material animals leave behind and examine their genetic structure, allowing him to identify the animal it belonged to.
Gemmel and his team plan to collect 300 samples from Loch Ness, varying the locations and depths of the samples so that they can get a wide-ranging perspective on what lives where.
According to Gemmell: "I'm going into this thinking it's unlikely there is a monster, but I want to test that hypothesis. What we'll get is a really nice survey of the biodiversity of the Loch Ness."
One of the more popular theories about Nessie is that she's actually a surviving Plesiosaur, an aquatic dinosaur that went extinct in the aftermath of the K-T extinction event 65 million years ago, which was probably caused by the impact of the Chicxulub meteor.
Still, this theory has some holes in it... Like the near-impossibility of cold-blooded reptiles surviving in the Loch's icy waters post-Ice Age.
Even if Gemmell doesn't expect to find Nessie, he's keeping his options open.
"In our lives, we want there still to be mysteries, some of which we will ultimately solve. That's part of the spirit of discovery. And sometimes, what you find may not be what you were expecting."