Loch Ness monster hunt continues as scientists turn to DNA sampling

Professor Neil Gemmell is leading the trip

Professor Neil Gemmell is leading the trip

The legend of the Loch Ness Monster has puzzled people for generations, however a group of scientists are hoping to finally uncover what really lies in the waters of the Scottish lake by using DNA sampling techniques.

If Nessie really is out there, she won't be able to hide from us for much longer. Now, a team of scientists has decided they don't need to rely on their eyes, but instead on DNA analysis.

"Whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers fur, feces and urine", Gemmell told the Otago Daily Times.

Gemmell and a team of scientists will travel to Scotland next month to collect and sample DNA from various points around Loch Ness to determine if any species lives in the water that has been previously unidentified by science. They intend to take samples of the water and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there.

The Loch Ness monster, fondly referred to as Nessie, is commonly believed to be a long-necked creature with one or two humps, resembling the plesiosaurs of prehistoric times.

Members of the Loch Ness Monster Investigation Team scan the loch for a sighting of the monster in 1968 (AAP) A shot from an underwater camera, taken on May 5, 1976, which was placed forty feet below the surface of Loch Ness, according to scientist Charles W. Wyckoff. He said they should have answers by the end of the year.

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"While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness - the UK's largest freshwater body", Gemmell said.

While finding Nessie might be the "fun" part of this expedition that brings it attention, the global team's goal is to study the overall wildlife within Loch Ness. 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.

"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".

"If an exact match can't be found, we can generally figure out where on the tree of life that sequence fits", says Gemmell.

Prof Neil Gemmell is leading the project/holiday, and he's being upfront about not believing in the monster stories. Last year, the BBC reported that purported sightings hit a record high. "That's part of the spirit of discovery".

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