By Tim Binnall
The highly-anticipated results of an environmental DNA study of Loch Ness indicate that the legendary 'monster' said to reside at the site could be a giant eel. The ambitious project, which generated considerable excitement in scientific and cryptozoological circles when it was first announced in April of 2017, was the brainchild of geneticist Neil Gemmell of New Zealand. During the summer of 2018, he and a team of researchers took 250 water samples from throughout Loch Ness. This material was then shipped off to labs around the world where any DNA that could be found in those samples was extracted and compared against genetic databases of known creatures.
Following a few headline-making hints earlier this year, the findings of the project were finally revealed in an announcement on Thursday. For fans of the idea that the Loch Ness Monster could be a remnant aquatic dinosaur somehow still living at the location, Gemmell had some disappointing news. "We can't find any evidence of a creature that's remotely related to that in our environmental-DNA sequence data," he said, "So, sorry, I don't think the plesiosaur idea holds up based on the data that we have obtained."
Remarkably, the research team was also able to rule out a sizeable number of other possible suspects for Nessie, including sharks, catfish, and sturgeon. According to Gemmel, the water samples from Loch Ness did not contain any DNA from those various creatures which have, in the past, been suggested by investigators for what might be behind the monster mystery. However, one long-standing theory for the nature of Nessie did remain viable and was perhaps even strengthened by the study: 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," revealed Gemmel. He went on to note that their data does not provide any indication of the size of the creatures, just that they are there in Loch Ness. With that in mind, he mused that "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."
It's unlikely that this conclusion will come as much of a surprise to Nessie aficionados as the proverbial 'eel hypothesis' has largely been considered the most plausible scenario for quite some time and, these days, the possibility that the creature could be a plesiosaur mostly only resides in the minds of children, advertisers, and a handful of very imaginative researchers. Be that as it may, the findings from the study have already spawned a slew of news stories declaring that the Loch Ness Monster mystery has been solved once and for all.
While that very well may wind up being the case, short of draining Loch Ness and finding 'nothing' there, the legend of a mysterious creature said to lurk at the site is probably not going to die anytime soon. Tourists will continue to visit the location in the hopes of spotting something strange, puzzling videos of enigmatic oddities appearing on the water will still pop up online every few months, and depictions of 'monster' will, without question, go unchanged from the iconic plesiosaur image that we have all come to know and love, even if Nessie really is just a big eel.