Scientists trying to crack the decades-old mystery of the Loch Ness Monster claim footage of a serpent-like creature filmed in the murky waters could be ‘Nessie’.
Extensive research of the Scottish Highland’s most infamous lake earlier this month concluded that the ‘monster’ was most likely an eel.
This theory has now been buoyed by footage of what appears to be a large eel floating above the water bed.
The video was shared online by the Ness Fishery Board, which tweeted: ‘Lets be honest, when you see a large, eel shaped object passing your camera in the River Ness, the first thing you think of is the Loch Ness Monster.’
This underwater camera captured the faint outline of a thin, slender creature passing through the murky waters of the loch, 23 miles southwest of Inverness.
The faint outline of a long serpent-like creature is seen gliding through the murky waters of Loch Ness in the background of this shot
Extensive research of the Scottish Highland’s most infamous lake earlier this month concluded that the ‘monster’ (pictured in 1934 when it was published in the Daily Mail) was most likely an eel
The animal, believed to be an eel, enters the top left side of the camera shot and is being used as evidence to boost the theory that the Loch Ness Monster is an eel
Otago University scientist Neil Gemmell from New Zealand (left) takes environmental DNA samples to study what species may, or may not be in Loch Ness. He is pictured with long time Nessie researcher, Dr Adrian Shine of the Loch Ness Centre
Richard Freeman, of the Centre for Fortean Zoology which has attempted to solve the Loch Ness puzzle, believes that the creature in the video is an eel.
But he told the Times: ‘I don’t believe the eel theory has killed off the Loch Ness Monster, quite the reverse in fact. A giant eel, which can grow up to 30ft, is a monster in every sense of the word.’
Some 250 samples of water taken from the depths of the freshwater Loch had led geneticists to believe that alleged historic sightings of the legendary beast were actually eels.
Professor Neil Gemmell, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, said eels as long as 13ft (four metres) may be living in the water.
Following analysis, the scientists ruled out the presence of large animals said to be behind reports of a monster.
No evidence of a prehistoric marine reptile called a plesiosaur or a large fish such as a sturgeon were found. Catfish and suggestions that a wandering Greenland shark were behind the sightings were also discounted.
Professor Gemmell said: ‘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?
Geneticist Professor Neil Gemmell, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, said eels as long as 13ft (four metres) may be living in the loch
Professor Gemmell said: ‘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’
‘Well, our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness.
‘Therefore we can’t discount the possibility that what people see and believe is the Loch Ness Monster might be a giant eel.
‘Divers have claimed that they’ve seen eels that are as thick as their legs in the loch, whether they’re exaggerating or not – I don’t know – but there is a possibility that there are very large eels present in the loch.
‘Whether they are as big as around 4m as some of these sightings suggest – well, as a geneticist I think about mutations and natural variation a lot, and while an eel that big would be well outside the normal range, it seems not impossible that something could grow to such unusual size.
‘Further investigation is needed to confirm or refute the theory, so based on our data, giant eels remain a plausible idea.’
As they sailed, the team took water samples from three different depths within the loch, in order to collect the traces of DNA found in the waters
DNA from each sample was captured, extracted and sequenced then compared against global DNA databases to reveal a comprehensive picture of life present in the Loch – examining the bacteria, the fish, and everything else in between
VisitScotland said the Nessie phenomenon is worth millions to the Scottish economy, with hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling to Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit every year to catch a glimpse of the mythical monster
But Gary Campbell, the keeper of the Official Loch Ness Sightings Register, rubbished the theory.
He said: ‘This research has not told us anything we did not know. It has not proved anything.
‘It has not provided the environmental DNA that would have fitted the hundreds of credible sightings.
‘We know Nessie is not a prehistoric monster – Loch Ness was a block of ice 10,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Nothing would have survived.
‘A fish or an eel was always the most plausible theory. What type of fish or eel would have helped.
‘We welcome the interest this study has generated but it has not given us the answer what Nessie is.
‘It won’t stop the mystery or the sightings – or indeed the people coming from all over the world to look for Nessie. We would welcome more scientific studies that can throw more light on the mystery. But this one really doesn’t.’
Steve Feltham, who is recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for the longest continuous monster hunting vigil of Loch Ness, is also not convinced the scientists have yet identified the creature behind the sightings.
Mr Feltham, who made childhood visits to the Highlands and moved from Dorset almost 30 years ago to look for Nessie, said he had seen seals in Loch Ness.
He added: ‘A 12-year-old boy could tell you there are eels in Loch Ness. I caught eels in the loch when I was a 12-year-old boy.’
Professor Gemmell taking environmental DNA samples to study what species may, or may not be in Loch Ness
Researchers collected samples of water from across the depths of the loch and sequenced the traces of DNA contained within
The new research points to the Loch Ness Monster or Nessie being a giant eel (file image used)
The myth dates back to the 6th Century – but theories were discounted, including that Nessie could be a shark, a sturgeon, or a catfish, or even a plesiosaur.
Professor Gemmell said: ‘We can’t find any evidence of a creature that’s remotely related to that in our environmental-DNA sequence data.
‘So, sorry, I don’t think the plesiosaur idea holds up based on the data that we have obtained.’
DNA from each sample was captured, extracted and sequenced then compared against global DNA databases to reveal a comprehensive picture of life present in the Loch – examining the bacteria, the fish, and everything else in between.
Is there such a thing as a giant EEL?
A moray eel
Moray eels are considered the biggest of the eel species.
Moray eels can be found in all tropical and subtropical seas, where they live in shallow water among reefs and rocks and hide in crevices.
They differ from other eels in having small rounded gill openings and in generally lacking pectoral fins.
Their skin is thick, smooth, and scaleless, while the mouth is wide and the jaws are equipped with strong, sharp teeth, which enable them to seize and hold their prey (chiefly other fish) but also to inflict serious wounds on their enemies, including humans.
They are apt to attack humans only when disturbed, but then they can be quite vicious.
Moray eels generally do not exceed a length of about 1.5 metres (5 feet), but one species, Thyrsoidea macrurus of the Pacific, is known to grow about 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) long.
Morays are eaten in some areas of the world, but their flesh is sometimes toxic and can cause illness or death.
Professor Gemmell added: ‘What I’m most satisfied with is that we came here to study environmental DNA, and our analysis has captured everything we thought is in the loch.
‘We now have an excellent database which if compared to any future testing could enable us to identify trends and changes in the Loch environment.’
As they sailed, the team took water samples from three different depths within the loch, in order to collect the traces of DNA found in the waters.
They apparently identified 15 different species of fish from within Loch Ness, along with 3,000 types of bacteria that were living in the water.
Cataloguing life within the loch has let experts test some of the theories around the Loch Ness monster — such as that it is a prehistoric reptile, or just a big fish.
If Nessie did exist, its DNA might have been picked up alongside those animals known to reside in the lake, such as pike, salmon and trout.
VisitScotland said the Nessie phenomenon is worth millions to the Scottish economy, with hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling to Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit every year to catch a glimpse of the mythical monster.
Unusual items previously found in the loch include a 30ft long Loch Ness monster model discovered on the loch bed in 2016 during a sonar search by Kongsberg Maritime and supported by The Loch Ness Project and VisitScotland.
The model was a prop from the 1970 film The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Robert Stephens and Christopher Lee.
It is believed the model sank after its buoyant humps were removed.
Professor Neil Gemmell examined environmental DNA in the loch
The study looked at environmental DNA samples taken from the length, breadth and depth of the loch
‘Scotland is dear to my heart because my mother and her family are Scottish,’ Professor Gemmell said when he announced the study last year.
‘I’m delighted to be here [in Scotland] to undertake our environmental DNA investigation of Loch Ness.’
‘It’s a place of extraordinary natural beauty.’
‘We’re delighted with the amount of interest the project has generated in the science and, monster or not, we are going to understand Loch Ness, and the life in it, in a new way.’
What IS the Loch Ness Monster?
Rumours of a strange creature living in the waters of Loch Ness have abounded over the decades, yet scant evidence has been found to back up these claims.
One of the first sightings, believed to have fuelled modern Nessie fever, came in May 2, 1933.
On this date the Inverness Courier carried a story a local couple who claim to have seen ‘an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.’
Another famous claimed sightings is a photograph taken in 1934 by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson.
It was later exposed as a hoax by one of the participants, Chris Spurling, who, on his deathbed, revealed that the pictures were staged.
Other sightings James Gray’s picture from 2001 when he and friend Peter Levings were out fishing on the Loch, while namesake Hugh Gray’s blurred photo of what appears to be a large sea creature was published in the Daily Express in 1933.
Robert Kenneth Wilson, a London physician, captured arguably the most famous image of the Loch Ness Monster, the surgeon’s photograph was published in the Daily Mail on April 21, 1934
The first reported sighting of the monster is said to have been made in 565AD by the Irish missionary St Columba when he came across a giant beast in the River Ness.
But no one has ever come up with a satisfactory explanation for the sightings – although earlier this year ‘Nessie expert’ Steve Feltham, who has spent 24 years watching the Loch, said he thought it was actually a giant Wels Catfish, native to waters near the Baltic and Caspian seas in Europe.
An online register lists more than 1,000 total Nessie sightings, created by Mr Campbell, the man behind the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club and is available at www.lochnesssightings.com.
So what could explain these mysterious sightings?
Many Nessie witnesses have mentioned large, crocodile-like scutes sitting atop the spine of the creature, leading some to believe an escaped amphibian may be to blame.
Native fish sturgeons can also weigh several hundred pounds and have ridged backs, which make them look almost reptilian.
Some believe Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur – like an elasmosaur – that survived somehow when all the other dinosaurs were wiped out.
Others say the sightings are down to Scottish pines dying and flopping into the loch, before quickly becoming water-logged and sinking.
While submerged, botanical chemicals start trapping tiny bubbles of air.
Eventually, enough of these are gathered to propel the log upward as deep pressures begin altering its shape, giving the appearance of an animal coming up for air.