The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland’s Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths of the lake.
But now the legend of “Nessie” may have no place left to hide. A New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to the lake next month, when they will take samples of the murky waters and conduct genetic tests to determine what species live there.
New Zealand’s University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell says he’s no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure. Besides, he says, his kids think it’s one of the coolest things he has ever done.
One of the theories is that Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur, a type of marine reptile, that somehow survived the period when dinosaurs became extinct. Another is that Nessie is actually a giant catfish.
Gemmell said that when creatures move about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA, or genetic information. It comes from their skin, feathers, scales and urine.
His team will take 300 samples of water from different points around the lake and at different depths.
He said the DNA results will be compared against a database of known species. He said they should have answers by the end of the year.
“In our lives we want there still to be mysteries, some of which we will ultimately solve,” Gemmell said. “That’s part of the spirit of discovery. And sometimes, what you find may not be what you were expecting.”