A monster or a myth?

University of Otago scientists are about to announce the findings of an international study into the existence or otherwise of the Loch Ness monster.

University geneticist Neil Gemmell is scheduled to speak at a media conference in Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness, next Thursday.

Prof Gemmell last year visited Scotland to investigate the waters of Loch Ness, leading to speculation that evidence of the fabled monster would be found.

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By examining environmental DNA in the loch waters, Prof Gemmell, of the university's anatomy department, aimed to catalogue all current life in the loch.

''There have been over 1000 reported sightings of something in Loch Ness which have driven this notion of a monster being in the water,'' he said.

Professor Neil Gemmell, of the University of Otago anatomy department, will soon reveal the findings of the international study into the existence of the Loch Ness monster. Photo / Supplied
Professor Neil Gemmell, of the University of Otago anatomy department, will soon reveal the findings of the international study into the existence of the Loch Ness monster. Photo / Supplied

There were about four main explanations.

''Our research essentially discounts most of those theories. However one theory remains plausible,'' Prof Gemmell said.

Two hundred and fifty water samples were taken from the length, breadth and depth of Loch Ness.

The DNA from those samples was extracted and sequenced, resulting in about 500 million sequences that had now been analysed against existing databases.

A university spokesman has said that even if there was no large creature cruising its depths, ''the loch itself is a monster''.

''Loch Ness is the UK's largest freshwater body - large enough to hold all the water from every lake, river and reservoir in England and Wales combined.''

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Prof Gemmell said that a global team of scientists had used sophisticated DNA sampling techniques and technology pioneered for the Human Genome Project to reveal what species lived in those dark, mysterious depths.

Since the first reported sightings in the sixth century, there had been various theories: some said it was a prehistoric relic, or a giant sturgeon, and others suggest a stick or a boat wake.

The Super Natural History team had used environmental DNA sampling of the loch waters to identify the tiny DNA samples left behind by life in the loch.