The first official mention of the Loch Ness monster came from a book written in the 6th century AD that described a “water beast” which dragged its unsuspecting prey beneath the Scottish waters, and now scientists will be embarking on a major study of the loch in order to catalog every living creature they find there, which should finally help to solve the debate on whether the Loch Ness monster is fact or fiction.
The new research will be an international affair, with scientists from the UK, USA, Australia, France, and Denmark involved. As ScienceAlert reports, scientists will be employing the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling in Loch Ness and then take these results and look at other lochs in Scotland for the sake of comparison.
Neil Gemmel, lead author of the new research, has explained that collecting DNA samples from all living things in Loch Ness is the perfect way to determine not only if the Loch Ness monster actually exists, but also what new and undiscovered creatures might be lurking deep in the loch’s depths.
“Whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers, fur, feces and urine. This DNA can be captured, sequenced and then used to identify that creature by comparing the sequence obtained to large databases of known genetic sequences from hundreds of thousands of different organisms – if an exact match can’t be found we can generally figure out where on the tree of life that sequence fits.”
While Gemmel doesn’t personally believe that scientists will find evidence of the creature called Nessie that has been compared with a long-necked plesiosaur, he is fully open to the idea that there may very well be other creatures in Loch Ness that would account for the many strange sightings there.
“Large fish like catfish and sturgeons, have been suggested as possible explanations for the monster myth, and we can very much test that idea and others. While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness – the UK’s largest freshwater body.”
Besides the Loch Ness monster, there are lots of practical reasons for this major new DNA study of the loch, and one of these is to research different species that are currently causing harm to Loch Ness, like the Pacific pink salmon. Scientists will also be on the hunt for new bacteria.
Neil Gemmel has pointed out that when this huge study of Loch Ness is finally completed, it will be a testament to the scientific process.
“We have the opportunity through this project to demonstrate the scientific process: how hypotheses are established and tested, the need to replicate, use controls and account for observer bias using double-blind methodologies. These are all important parts of this story.”
If the Loch Ness monster is actually real after all, scientists will certainly be able to discover it now with their upcoming DNA study of all living creatures and organisms in the loch.