Ol' Nessie is one of folklore's most elusive monsters. The Loch Ness Monster ranks up there with the likes of the Yeti, Bigfoot and UFO sightings. However, that's never stopped certain groups of people from swearing she exists. One such man is New Zealand researcher and geneticist Neil Gemmell.
The famously debunked 'surgeon's photograph' of the Loch Ness Monster surfaced in April 1934 [Image Source: Wikipedia]
Gemmell works at the University of Otago in a lab that specializes in environmental DNA. More specifically, Gemmell uses water samples to match DNA findings to animals that live in that body of water. How does it work? All organisms shed cells throughout their environments, and over time, that DNA has been compiled into various biological databases throughout the world.
"Environmental DNA works very well in aquatic environments," Gemmell said in an interview with Gizmodo. "If there is something really different about Loch Ness, this technique would find it."
Gemmell believes that if he finds a new DNA sample, he can cross-reference that information with known animals. Granted, if they don't find anything, at least the discussion is reopened into the monster's existence.
''But if we find nothing particularly special about Loch Ness, I don't think that is going to stop people from believing in the monster," he told the Otago Daily Times.
''I, myself, am a skeptic. But I'm not averse to the idea of being proved wrong.''
Loch Ness, where Gemmell's team will start the research [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Gemmell said the environmental DNA idea is simply that as of now -- just an idea. However, that seemingly 'crazy' idea picked up steam on Twitter and now more Nessie believers support Gemmell's proposed research.
The Loch Ness monster
The Loch Ness monster (aka Nessie) is said to reside in the Loch Ness lake in Scotlands. The creature is said to randomly surprise visitors to the Highlands area. Loch Ness is the largest body of fresh water in Great Britain, which only furthers speculation that she's swimming happily somewhere yet uncharted. Earliest mentions date back to the sixth century. However, the only 'proof' of her existence comes from some grainy photos and heavily disputed sonar images. Due to her hard-to-find nature, a lot of people have anthropomorphized Nessie as a shy, Brachiosaurus-like creature. Some have even theorized the monster is a plesiosaur that evolved to thrive in water. Walt Disney Animation even made a cute little short film about how she came to fame called "The Ballad of Nessie."
Statue of Nessie as a plesiosaur in the lake outside the Museum of Nessie [Image Source: Wikipedia]
Nessie has quite a fan club, as well. There are websites dedicated to proving her existence, and they promise constant updates as to her whereabouts. Thousands of people throughout history have searched for her, including Loch Ness Project leader Adrian Shine. Shine has assisted several research teams explore the area since 1973.
"'I would be very interested in the results,'' Shine said.
Even if the DNA samples don't lead to the Loch Ness monster, they could expand researchers' knowledge of wildlife in the area. It would also serve as a conversation piece to use this type of research in more environments.
And, even if the legend of the Loch Ness monster remains a legend, researchers will have larger-than-life stories to tell.