By Tim Binnall
A fascinating new study argues that reports of Nessie-like sea monsters can be traced back to the public's fascination with dinosaurs which exploded when fossils of the ancient creatures were first discovered. Charles Paxton and Darren Naish reportedly collected over 1,500 accounts of mysterious aquatic beasts dating all the way back to 1801 and subjected the data to a statistical study in search of possible trends over time. What the researchers found was a distinct uptick in the number of long-necked plesiosaur-like creatures which began at around the same period in the 19th century when dinosaur fossils were first being found.
Incredibly, their paper observes, as our understanding of aquatic dinosaurs grew, so too did the frequency of contemporaneous reports featuring the fantastic beasts, increasing from around 10 percent in the early 1800s to nearly half of such sightings taking place in the 1930s. This 'dinomania,' as the researchers call it, appears to have had an influence on the creation of the infamous 1934 hoaxed image of the Loch Ness Monster known as the Surgeon's photo which depicted the legendary creature as a remnant plesiosaur. In turn, the frenzy surrounding that story seemingly solidified the transition in perception of 'sea monsters' from serpents to aquatic dinosaurs.
Although the study doesn't necessarily debunk the existence of unidentified sea creatures lurking in various bodies of water around the world, it does posit that witnesses' interpretation of what they are seeing appears to be as much, if not more, influenced by the zeitgeist than the actual event unfolding before their eyes. It also provides something of an explanation for where the largely implausible idea that 'sea monsters' are remnant dinosaurs came from in the first place. To that end, one wonders if such an examination of the ever-changing shape of UFOs reported by witnesses would result in a similar societal connection as well.