Nessie, the perhaps mythical but long sought after monster in Scotland's Loch Ness, could be real, according to geneticist Neil Gemmell. But if so, he says, it's likely that she's a giant eel, either a single massive one or, presumably, many eels stacked in a trench coat like Vincent Adultman from BoJack Horseman.
According to the Washington Post, there are more than 1,000 reported sightings of the Loch Ness monster, going as far back as 565 A.D., many of them claiming it looks something like a plesiosaur, a carnivorous, brontosaurus-shaped marine animal from the Jurassic Period. That matches an iconic black and white photo of the monster from the 30's, the so-called "surgeon's photograph" which has sadly been discredited as a child's submarine toy with a molded clay head. But speculation about the monster has persisted. Some people have even suggested that the sightings are actually just circus elephants that wandered into the loch.
Gemmell, a professor at New Zealand’s University of Otago, led a research team in examining DNA in 250 water samples from Loch Ness, and they managed to rue out a lot of possible explanations for what Nessie could be if she exists which she probably does no matter what some kiwi nerd says. They found no DNA that would theoretically match a prehistoric reptile's, and no traces of more commonplace animals that could be mistaken for one, like sharks, catfish, or sturgeons. But they did find eel DNA. A massive eel would line up with some of the descriptions from Nessie sightings, and eels usually migrate up rivers and into lakes in Scotland. On top of that, it's possible, Gemmell claims, that an extraordinarily long-lived eel could grow as long as 13 feet. It's a long-shot explanation, but as he told the Post, it's good publicity: "I am unashamedly using the monster as a way to attract interest so I can talk about the science I want to talk about."
But not everyone is impressed with Gemmell's takeaway. Steve Feltham, who's recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as leading the longest ever hunt for Nessie, told the BBC, "A 12-year-old boy could tell you there are eels in Loch Ness. I caught eels in the loch when I was a 12-year-old boy." And according to The Telegraph, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also dismissed Nessie's downgrade from dinosaur to eel, saying, "I am not taking that as conclusive proof of non-existence of the Loch Ness Monster." He added, "Let me put in this way, there is a part of my soul that still yearns to believe."
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Originally Appeared on GQ