Scientist launches hunt for Loch Ness 'monster DNA'

June 17, 2018
A depiction of the double helical structure of DNA. Its four coding units (A, T, C, G) are color-coded in pink, orange, purple and yellow. Credit: NHGRI

Tales of a giant creature lurking beneath the murky waves of Loch Ness have been around for more than 1,500 years—and one academic hopes the marvels of modern science can finally unravel the mystery.

Neil Gemmell has travelled from the University of Otago in New Zealand to collect water samples in the Scottish lake, in the hope of finding out more about the creatures that inhabit its depths.

"Over 1,000 people claim that they have seen a monster. Maybe there is something extraordinary out there," he told AFP, as he dropped a five-litre probe into the loch.

Gemmell said he would be keeping an eye out for "monster DNA" but the project was more aimed at testing environmental DNA techniques to understand the natural world.

Local resident Adrian Shine said Gemmell's findings could contribute to his own long running research programme—The Loch Ness Project.

The venture was itself inspired by the efforts of earlier international explorers like American Dan Scott Taylor who patrolled the loch in his Beatles-inspired Yellow Submarine in the late 1960s.

"I'm sure that some species will be found which have probably not been described. They're more likely than anything else to be bacteria," Shine told AFP.

"If you did find something else—and I do emphasise the if—then you would actually get quite a good handle on what sort of creature, what class of animal, it is."

'Record number of sightings'

Theories abound about the true nature of the Loch Ness Monster, from a malevolent, shape-shifting "water horse", to an aquatic survivor of the dinosaur age, right down to logs, fish, wading birds or simply waves which have been blown out of all proportion.

"Anything that you see on the loch that you don't understand can be your Loch Ness Monster on that day," Shine said.

The earliest chronicles of a creature in Loch Ness are attributed to Saint Columba, who brought Christianity to Scotland in the sixth century.

The last reported sighting was on March 26 this year by a US couple standing on the ramparts of the majestic ruin of Urquhart Castle.

"They described a large shadow moving under the water which they estimated to be around 30 feet in length," said Dave Bell, skipper of the Nessie Hunter tourist boat.

"Last year we had a record number of sightings: 11 in total."

Bell has never seen anything himself in his many years on the loch, but that does not shake his belief that there is something down there.

"I find it hard to believe that over 1,000 people can be wrong," he said.

"Too many rational, level-headed people have said they have seen what they believe to be a creature in the loch."

-Tourism boom—The Highlands are experiencing a boom in tourism—and not all of it is related to mythical monsters.

Inverness is the gateway to the North Coast 500, a new 500-mile (800-kilometre) trail dubbed "Scotland's Route 66" which attracted 26 percent more tourists to the area last year, according to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise agency.

"There's a lot more people around," said Joanna Stebbings, operations manager at Loch Ness Lifeboat Station, which carried out a record 33 rescues last year.

"All the hire companies, whether they are kayaks or cruisers or even yachts are fully booked."

Andrea Ferguson, 56, a school teacher from Saint Louis, Missouri, took a trip on Nessie Hunter to try to catch sight of the monster which has fascinated her since childhood.

"So many sightings have been made that there may be a little truth to the Loch Ness Monster," she told AFP.

"The loch is huge. It's even bigger than I thought it was.

"It's dark water, very mysterious, there's lots of fog and mist, and large mountains draped in clouds so it has an aura of majesty and mystery about it. It's beautiful!"

Explore further: Legend of Loch Ness Monster will be tested with DNA samples

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3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2018
Nessie the spirit of the loch
Nessie is not going to be caught, Nessie leaves no DNA trace there no water disturbance when Nessie dives for cover when his fans descend on the loch, he's been living in loch Nessie for time immortal as he is never going to leave the loch his spirit is for ever going to exist and all attempts to unmask Nessie will come to naught
He is the spirit of the loch and he welcomes any disillusioned scientist who has the arrogance to uncover Nessie's magic so to all the children round the world who believe in Nessie, he has this message "he is here for eternity and he welcomes all sight seers"
2.8 / 5 (4) Jun 17, 2018
@alaxander2468 - This is like saying Santa Claus is the spirit of the North Pole.

If it doesn't have nucleic acids, it's a robot.
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2018
checksinthemail> @alaxander2468 - This is like saying Santa Claus is the spirit of the North Pole.

If it doesn't have nucleic acids, it's a robot.

Its a spirit, it niether has nucleic acids and robots are real so they don't have spirits so its not a robot
Spirits don't exist, but don't tell the scientists with their DNA equipment, as it will spoil the myth and upset all the children round the world who have grown up believing in Nessie!
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 17, 2018
Wouldn't a spirit be shitting piles of ectoplasm all over the place? Someone call the ghostbusters!

"..."So many sightings have been made that there may be a little truth to the Loch Ness Monster,..."

So little truth it's damn near infinitesimal!

As the old saying I made up goes "There are lies and there are damn lies and there are statistically improbable drunken lies!"

Considering all the dolts visiting, spending money? The fact that Nessie doesn't exist doesn't matter. The gullible will still show up. Strain their eyes and drain their pocketbooks.

The Scotchtaped Tourist Bored will eventually pay some quack genetic testing lab to create one.
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 18, 2018
YOU are a bonafide Scrooge McDuck. Do you also distribute poisoned candy to little children for Christmas?
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 18, 2018
If it were up to YOU, all of humanity would walk around feeling depressed and miserable without any sense of joy, wonder and lust for life.

And who are YOU to pass judgment on the seekers of the mythical monster? It is their money; their time and their involvement in something that they enjoy. Fie on you, sir.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2018
checksinthemail> @alaxander2468 - This is like saying Santa Claus is the spirit of the North Pole.If it doesn't have nucleic acids, it's a robot.

alaxander2468>Its a spirit, it niether has nucleic acids and robots are real so they don't have spirits so its not a robotSpirits don't exist, but don't tell it will spoil the myth and upset all the children round the world who have grown up believing in Nessie!

Checksinthemail as all the children round the world large and small believe in the eternity of Santa Claus just as Nessie is the spirit of the Loch you are correct Santa Claus is the spirit is the spirit of the North Pole and under those magical northern lights every year when Spirits meet under those magical lights Santa invites all the spirits of the world to meet where no mortal can under the magic of the pole where Nessie has been visiting Santa which why his spirit is strong and no scientist has the power to break his spirit!
4 / 5 (4) Jun 18, 2018
Guys...the 'hunt for Nessie' is a quip by the researcher. The aim of the project is to identify and catalog the DNA diversity in the lake. Nothing more.

The fact that Nessie doesn't exist doesn't matter.

There's all kinds of mythical places people will travel to. Loch Ness is no different than people going to Lourdes or Mount Olympus or ...

Whatever floats your's a tourist attraction like many others.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2018
a_p, I am shocked! Shocked I tell you! That so many readers upvoted your sensible comments.

You set a bad example for all us noisy addledpates...
3 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2018
"addledpates" There's a word you don't see used very often....
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 19, 2018
Well if the hat fits...

Mine is a very fancy Tom Mix style, ten-gallon with a several peacock feathers sticking up from the diamond-back snake skin hat band.

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