The Loch Ness Monster Might Actually Be A Giant Eel, Say Biologists

A castle in the foreground of Scotland's Loch Ness
Sam Fentress / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0 Cropped, resized.)

The Loch Ness monster, the mythical beast that has been the Holy Grail of cryptozoologists for decades, may be nothing more than exceptionally-large eels, BBC News reports.

The most famous photo of “Nessie,” as the mythical beast has come to be called, the so-called “Surgeon’s photograph” of 1934, has been revealed as a hoax. What’s more, multiple expeditions to map the Scottish lake and search its depths for evidence of the cryptid have come up blank.

Nevertheless, from time to time reports of the animal having been spotted will make the news, and indeed, reports of sightings of the monster go back centuries. So, there has to be something to those reports, right?

Yes, says a team of scientists. And that something is not a previously-unknown species or a leftover from the age of the dinosaurs. It’s the much more mundane eel.

A team of scientists from New Zealand’s University of Otago, led by geneticist Professor Neil Gemmell, took water samples from the loch and ran DNA analysis, with a view towards picking up genetic markers from the waste products, blood, decay, and whatever else is left behind from the creatures that live in, or die in, the lake.

From there, it was simply a matter of ruling out theories about what Nessie may be, one-by-one, until they were left with something that made sense.

Was it a plesiosaur that somehow survived evolution’s machinations, leaving behind a specimen in the lake? Nope — no dinosaur DNA was found in any of the samples. There was also no sturgeon DNA, ruling out the theory that Nessie is merely one of the large fish. It’s not a catfish either. Nor is it a lost Greenland shark (no shark DNA).

In fact, when all of the dust had settled, so to speak, the most likely culprit, of which there was plenty of DNA to be found in the samples, was the eel.

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It makes perfect sense: at least one species of eel migrates from the Bahamas, thousands of miles across the ocean to the lakes and rivers of Scotland, to spawn.

“There is a very significant amount of eel DNA. Eels are very plentiful in Loch Ness, with eel DNA found at pretty much every location sampled – there are a lot of them. So – are they giant eels?” Professor Gemmell asked.

Gemmell admitted that his data isn’t complete enough to reveal the size of the eels that could inhabit the lake.

Also found in the lake was DNA from humans, dogs, sheep, cattle, deer, badgers, rabbits, voles and birds.