Already something of a mystery buster, the science behind DNA may soon add another proverbial trophy to its collection: the Loch Ness Monster. An ingenious new approach to 'hunting' the famed creature said to lurk in the Scottish lake will soon be underway in the form of a research project that will collect water from Loch Ness and then produce a survey of its aquatic denizens via their DNA. The effort is spearheaded by scientist Neil Gemmell of New Zealand, who explained to a local newspaper that "whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers, fur, faeces and urine."
The project which has been in a year in the making and boasts a team of experts from around the world, will see numerous water samples taken from Loch Ness over the course of two weeks in June. The haul will subsequently be shipped to facilities in four different countries where the genetic materials contained in the water will be compared to known genomes of countless species already cataloged by scientists. Researchers should then have a comprehensive catalog of Loch Ness creatures with which to compare and contrast to other sites to see if there is something out of the ordinary about the location.
Although Gemmell does not expect to uncover the genetic code for a plesiosaur by way of a toenail picked up in the proceedings, he did predict that new forms of bacteria could be found. He also noted that the environmental DNA study should provide some answers about invasive species, such as Pacific pink salmon, which are said to have begun popping up in the Loch in recent years. "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," he marveled.
Should the study show that there is no sign of a creature that one could classify as the classic version of Nessie, the findings will no doubt spawn headlines around the world that, once and for all, the Loch Ness Monster is dead. But, as we've seen in the past, it's nearly impossible to truly kill the creature since it seems to exist more in legend and the imagination than in the actual waters of Loch Ness. And so one ambiguous video or a powerful personal experience may be all that is needed to bring Nessie back from the brink of oblivion once again.