A tourist's photo of a strange aquatic creature has sparked fresh and feverish speculation about Scotland's fabled Loch Ness monster.
English tourist Steve Challice snapped the picture of what appears to be a large fish in Loch Ness during a holiday to Scotland in September.
Challice didn't necessarily think the creature in his photo was the mythical Nessie. He told the UK's Daily Record he'd merely been photographing some interesting ripples in the water, near the famous Urquhart Castle, when some kind of large fish came to the surface and went under water again.
He said the creature was about 2.5m long and was about 9m away from him.
"It only appeared in one shot and to be honest that was something of a fluke," he said.
But things got interesting after Challice spent some time going back through his holiday photos during coronavirus downtime.
Wondering if the creature he'd seen in the loch was a catfish, he posted his photo online for feedback — and it led to people speculating he'd inadvertently captured the elusive Loch Ness monster.
But Challice is not convinced.
"Personally I know there has been some interest and some people are saying it's the monster but I don't believe that," he told the Daily Record.
"I have to say I don't believe in the Loch Ness monster and frankly I think if anything is there then there is a logical explanation for most of the sightings.
"My guess would be that what I captured was a catfish or something like that. As seals get in from the sea then I expect that's what it is and that would explain why these sightings are so few and far between."
Questions have also been raised about the authenticity of Challice's photo, which is part of a series he took at the loch.
"Up until now this year we only had distant webcam blobs due to the lockdown at Loch Ness, then this image turned up," author and Nessie expert Roland Watson told the Daily Record.
"If this is a genuine picture of a creature in Loch Ness, it would easily rank in the top three of all time.
"At this point, I am in an ongoing conversation with Steve as to the objections and concerns I have about this being a Photoshop picture. So we will see where that takes us."
In September — around the time of Challice's visit to Scotland — New Zealand researchers suggested the legend of the Loch Ness monster was most likely sparked by sightings of giant eels.
Researchers from the University of Otago said samples of environmental DNA from the loch debunked a popular theory the creature was a prehistoric reptile, or population of reptiles, that had survived.
They also said the creature was a giant catfish or a Greenland shark, which can live for up to 500 years.
Instead, they said the only possibility that hadn't been ruled out by the research was that Nessie was a giant eel.
"Eels are very plentiful in Loch Ness, with eel DNA found at pretty much every location sampled – there are a lot of them," lead researcher Professor Neil Gemmell said.
"So – are they giant eels? 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."