Legend of Loch Ness Monster will be tested with DNA samples The undated file photo shows Scotland's 23-mile long Loch Ness, home of the elusive monster, Nessie. In foreground is Urquhart Castle. (AP Photo, File)
Legend of Loch Ness Monster will be tested with DNA samples
Lexile

The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths.

But now the legend of "Nessie" may have no place left to hide. A New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to the lake next month. They will take samples of the murky waters and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there.

University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell says he's no believer in Nessie. But he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way. Besides, he says, his kids think it's one of the coolest things he's ever done.

One of the more far-fetched theories is that Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur that somehow survived the period when dinosaurs became extinct. Another theory is that the monster is actually a sturgeon or giant catfish. Many believe the sightings are hoaxes or can be explained by floating logs or strong winds.

Gemmell said that when creatures move about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA. It comes from their skin, feathers, scales and urine.

He said his team will take 300 samples of water from different points around the lake and at different depths. They will filter the organic material and extract the DNA, sequencing it by using technology originally created for the human genome project.

He said the DNA results will then be compared against a database of known species. He said they should have answers by the end of the year.

"I'm going into this thinking it's unlikely there is a monster, but I want to test that hypothesis," Gemmell said. "What we'll get is a really nice survey of the biodiversity of the Loch Ness."

He said the real discoveries may come in determining things like the prevalence of invasive species.

Gemmell, 51, said he first visited Loch Ness in his late 20s while on vacation. Like thousands of tourists before him, he gazed out over the lake trying to catch sight of a monster. He said he first came up with the idea of testing DNA from the lake a couple of years ago and it resonated with many, including his children, aged 7 and 10.

Graeme Matheson, chief of the Scottish Society of New Zealand, said he, too, has visited Loch Ness and gazed out over the water. He wishes Gemmell all the best.

"I hope he and his cohorts find something, although I think they'll be battling," Matheson said. "Still, it's a good way to get a trip to Scotland."

Gemmell said that even if they don't find any monster DNA, it won't deter some Nessie believers. He said they've already been offering him theories, like that Nessie might be on vacation after swimming to the sea via hidden underwater caves, or that the creature might be extraterrestrial and not leave behind any DNA.

"In our lives we want there still to be mysteries, some of which we will ultimately solve," Gemmell said. "That's part of the spirit of discovery. And sometimes, what you find may not be what you were expecting."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the Loch Ness Monster considered a “legend?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (10)
  • karlised-orv
    9/20/2018 - 10:00 p.m.

    Because it’s a story handed down from the past, based in actual events but facts of the story have been exaggerated over the years.

  • BrandinG-dec
    9/24/2018 - 10:29 a.m.

    I don't think the Loch Ness Monster is real. It doesn't make sense that if he is proven not real, people will still believe.

  • CoenS-sto
    10/04/2018 - 11:41 a.m.

    It may be a stick, or it could be an evolution of a plesiosaur.
    It is a legend because there is no scientific proof that it exists.

  • sbrei-wim4
    10/12/2018 - 11:52 a.m.

    The Loch Ness Monster is considered a legend because no one has actually seen the monster, so therefore there is no scientific proof that it's real.

  • chous-wim4
    10/12/2018 - 12:03 p.m.

    I think if it was real it would be extra life and it wouldnt leave behind any DNA

  • chorn-wim4
    10/12/2018 - 12:04 p.m.

    i think its interesting that the monster might still be alive because if it was alive when the dinosaurs were alive then it must be really smart to live for that long

  • rcole-wim5
    10/12/2018 - 01:01 p.m.

    It is considered a "legend" because it has still not been found and nobody has even seen it. Its been a theory for years and still no one can find it. Being able to find or see the Loch Ness Monster would be a miracle.

  • lbaer-wim5
    10/12/2018 - 01:08 p.m.

    Its considered a legend because people have there doubts that it is real. Some people do believe its real though so that is why they are doing an investigation. People say that the 'monster' is probably a log or the wind. They are trying to figure out if it is real by doing DNA samples on the water.

  • mthor-wim5
    10/12/2018 - 01:12 p.m.

    No one had ever seen him right? Well for it to stay undercover for this long is amazing! I fully encourage the research to continue and i cant wait to see if the nessie is real. I think that nessie is considered a legend because of how long this story has been going on for. Since no one has really seen the monster that is why its considered a legend.

  • jbroo-wim5
    10/12/2018 - 01:14 p.m.

    The Loch Ness Monster is considered a legend because people had been describing this monster. People have a theory that this monster and been alive seen dionaur has been extinct.

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