Nessie fans, pay attention.
The first sighting of the rumored monster swimming in Loch Ness dates back to the 6th century; since then, scientists and regular people alike have been searching for answers.
Sturgeons, trees, elephant trunks, dinosaurs and just about everything else you can think of has been blamed at one point or another, but one New Zealand scientist is claiming he’s come up with the most plausible answer – an oversized eel.
Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago made the assertion after a recent environmental DNA project analyzed the genetic material of everything living in the loch. Gemmell and his team collected 250 water samples from various spots in the lake – no small feat given that the lake is 23 miles long and 788 feet deep – and came up with 500 million gene sequences.
They then compared the sequenced DNA with global databases of known organism, and found nothing to suggest there’s anything new or unknown in the lake. Their findings also ruled out some previous guesses, like Greenland sharks, catfish, and sturgeon.
What they did find, however, were unusually high amounts of eel DNA.
“The remaining theory that we cannot refute based on the environmental DNA data obtained is that what people are seeing is a very large eel,” the project’s website reads. “Eels are very plentiful in Loch Ness, with eel DNA found at pretty much every location sampled – there are a lot of them.”
We also know that the British Isles are home to some pretty large eels. Conger eels can grow up to 10 feet or longer in length, and in 2001, two 7-foot eels were discovered on the loch’s shores. Gemmell and others maintain that an eel near the surface could be easily mistaken for the back of a larger, bulkier “monster.”
The evidence, while compelling, doesn’t prove anything conclusively, which means believers are still likely to traipse out to the lake in search of the elusive and enduring mystery of Nessie.
That said, the eel theory is pretty interesting…
Just not as exciting as a mythical monster emerging from the depths and stunning tourists year after year.
Sometimes the mystery is better than the truth.