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Is the Loch Ness Monster a Plesiosaur?

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With interests in science and nature, the author explores topics from a unique and sometimes controversial perspective.

Is the Loch Ness Monster a Plesiosaur?

Whatever the Loch Ness Monster is, it is probably not a plesiosaur. It’s an intriguing idea, but a couple of problems exist. For one thing, the monster has allegedly been spotted on land, and plesiosaurs were not capable of venturing out of the water.

The plesiosaur was an air-breathing animal. If there is a population large enough to breed, they should be spotted when they come to the surface. Even in a body of water as large as Loch Ness, people should see them all the time.

Food sources are another problem. Plesiosaurs were marine creatures that needed to hunt large numbers of fish to survive. Many researchers aren’t convinced that Loch Ness holds enough life to support a plesiosaur, though other lakes may, and of course, the ocean does.

A plesiosaur was an order of aquatic creatures that existed at the time of the dinosaurs. It was a reptile with a big body and a long neck, and it hunted fish in the prehistoric oceans.

There were many kinds of plesiosaurs. Several, going by the fossil record, probably looked pretty similar to the reported description of Nessie and other lake monsters.

For the plesiosaur to have survived the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs would be a feat in itself, but the idea that it could have gone undetected for so many thousands of years is almost unbelievable.

The plesiosaur went extinct with the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

The plesiosaur went extinct with the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

What Is the Loch Ness Monster?

The tale of the Loch Ness Monster is an intriguing part of Scottish lore that has taken on worldwide fame. Reported to be a huge creature at least thirty feet long, Nessie has freaked out many a Scotsman who chose to go for a stroll by the lake after a few nips at the bar. If sightings can be believed, the Loch Ness Monster is an incredible beast.

Thing is, the Loch Ness Monster really isn’t that unusual at all. There are lake monsters matching Nessie’s description reported all over the world.

They all sound about the same, with their long, serpentine necks and big bodies, and this leads some people to speculate that Nessie and her like may be a species of aquatic creature thought to have gone extinct long ago.

If you believe the Loch Ness Monster exists, something has to account for the creature.

Loch Ness appears tranquil on the surface, but what lurks beneath the waves?

Loch Ness appears tranquil on the surface, but what lurks beneath the waves?

Loch Ness Monster Theories

The plesiosaur hypothesis is by far the most interesting theory to explain Loch Ness Monster sightings. Some theories seem to make sense, but others are even more implausible than an unknown creature lurking in the lake. Here are a few:

  • European Eels: Recently, some researchers have found evidence that a population of European eels exists in Loch Ness. However, these eels only grow to about two to three feet long.
  • Wayward seals: While seals are not unheard of in Loch Ness, they are rare, and spotting one under unusual conditions might make it seem like something else. A group of seals may be especially disorienting for the observer not expecting to see them.
  • Ducks and geese: Obviously nobody is going to mistake a goose for the Loch Ness Monster, but some researchers say under the right atmospheric conditions a single waterfowl can appear much larger than it really is when viewed from a distance.
  • Surfacing logs: Decaying timber may become buoyant and rise to the surface. Given the reputation of the area, it's easy to see how an excited onlooker might mistake a large undulating log for a living creature.
  • A rare species of pinniped: Some researchers speculate the monster may be a species of seal with a long neck. let to be cataloged by science.
  • The Greenland Shark: In 2013 the popular Animal Planet show River Monsters speculated that sightings may be due to the rare appearance of a Greenland Shark in Loch Ness. It's an interesting idea but seems pretty unlikely.


If you believe the Loch Ness Monster exists, some say a living plesiosaur is as good a theory as any. Others say that a plesiosaur would be unmistakable in Loch Ness, and we'd surely have more evidence of its presence.

But the fact is scientists are pretty certain that the plesiosaur was a fast-moving, fish-eating, air-breathing beast, but without a living specimen, we can't be sure of its true nature.

The best photo evidence of the Loch Ness Monster was the "Surgeon's Photo”, taken in 1934. The picture showed the head and neck of the Monster, and it sure looked a lot like a plesiosaur. The photo made headlines around the world.

However, a few years ago one of the people involved confessed that the picture had been a fraud. It was really a cardboard cutout mounted on a toy submarine. You just can’t trust a monster hunter, evidently.

Many skeptics believe sightings of the Loch Ness Monster can be attributed to floating logs, seals, or even strange wave formations. There is always the possibility that is all in people’s minds, but with so many witnesses over the years it’s hard to believe there isn’t some truth to the matter. Maybe these lake monsters are misidentified modern animals.

Maybe these lake creatures are throw-backs to prehistoric times. Then again, like the Surgeon's Photo, maybe they are all metaphorical cardboard cutouts.

The occasional presence of seals is one of the theories to explain the Loch Ness Monster

The occasional presence of seals is one of the theories to explain the Loch Ness Monster

More Monsters

Loch Ness isn't the only place reputed to have aquatic monsters roaming about. From the deep ocean to the jungles of Africa, there are strange animals spotted for which there is no explanation. Are they the remnants of ancient species, some new creatures yet to be discovered, or just figments of our imaginations?

Just like Loch Ness, there are lakes in the United States and Canada known for strange creatures living within. Some are plesiosaur-like, such as Nessie, while others are serpentine. Others are stranger still. If there is no such thing as lake monsters, why are they spotted all around the world?

Tribesmen in equatorial Africa know of huge, terrifying creatures that inhabit the lakes and rivers. To them, they are just another creature of the forest, but to outsiders, they sound a whole lot like dinosaurs. What are the chances a small population of remnant dinosaurs may have survived in Africa?

Loch Ness isn't unique when it comes to strange creatures beneath the waves. If Nessie exists, there may be more of them, all around the world.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on May 10, 2020:

Thank u for sharing :) wonderful and engaging hub :) I wanted to believe for the longest time Loch Ness was an extinct dinosaur. Now I think its more plausable that it may be a new species. Still unsure. Would love to visit there someday :)

Phantom on March 14, 2020:

Yes my great, great, great, Grandparents where not drunk, okey maybe there were but, Nessie is real, she's a plessiosaur.

If I remember in one account of her she was on land, so perhaps she walk to the sea?

Anyway my great great great great Grandparents probably liked their rum.

Geoffrey Briggs Tasmania on November 02, 2019:

Even the bible mentions the leviathan and the behemoth and the Norwegian kraken. The creature quite likely doesn't necessarily live in a lake or particular body of water permanently but more likely to be an occasional visitor. Most lakes wouldn't have enough food for a pernament resident. That's probably why they are only seen infrequently, they might even prefer to be abroad at night

Hollywood Stone on September 13, 2019:

Elasmosaurus not Plesiosaurus survivability is still possible.

Loch Ness sightings correlate to this aquatic reptile.

Brad on September 04, 2019:

Enjoyed the read, but have one issue you say they are air breathers, however science has proven the evolution of life and how we and millions of other species on the planet have evolved is it nothighly suggestable even possible that over the course of 65 million years at least one of the many different types of plesiosaur was able to evolve into an aquattic repile with gills ? Also the loch doesnt need to have enough food as it isnt an enclosed and isolated lake whatever it is it isnt trapped in the loch and has the ability to leave an hjnt in other more rich places hence sighting in open lales around the world. Just saying

J.Anne on March 21, 2019:

Has any attempts to determine if anything in the Loch echo locates been made? I worked on a project in college where we recorded underwater noises in Lake Champlain, and several other large lakes with monster lore in Canada and we found some very interesting instances of echo location that matched nothing science had previously recorded. I would LOVE to be able to get over there to do a large scale acoustics study and see if we had any over lap in the recordings. It could also explain why previous sonar studies have yielded inconclusive results, the active sonar could prove very disorienting and/or painful even to a creature that hunts and navigates via echo location.

cryptid (author) from USA on August 10, 2018:

@Nessie - It is certainly possible, but if the plesiosaur model is correct it is more likely that the Loch Ness Monster is a fish-eater. Also, seals would escape predation from time to time, and we'd see evidence of bite marks on those that got away, as we do with shark attacks on seals. Obviously this evidence doesn't exist.

Nessie on August 09, 2018:

Do they eat seals?

DarkStripeDevil on April 02, 2018:

Super helpful for my project, thanks, and once when I was about 7 I was obsessed with dinosaurs and I was reading my dinosaur book while watching youtube videos about mythical beasts and the idea just came to me and my teachers thought it was hilarious how into it I was and everyone laughed at me, but I'm glad someone has the same idea as me, makes me feel a little less stupid.

m on January 19, 2018:

i think its a shark

Jovie on January 01, 2017:

I am doing a project and this helped so much thank you!

cryptid (author) from USA on August 28, 2014:

I have seen all kinds of attempts to see beneath the waves of Loch Ness too, and they always come up empty. Except for the mandatory weird blip that may or may not be a log, of course.

But I agree that something is going on there, whether the culprit is some kind of unknown creature or something more mundane we just haven't figured out yet.

Nathaniel Plumtree from Basingstoke on August 27, 2014:

I once read about a time when the loch was scanned by satellites and didn't find anything like a monster or prehistoric creatures but this never said about the satellite scanning the off springing tunnels, some of which are believed to reach the ocean and stories of Nessie have been told since the 16th century and for legends to last that long there has to be something down there in the murky depths of the loch.

cryptid (author) from USA on July 09, 2014:

There are certainly still a lot of question marks re: the Loch Ness Monster, mythsearcher108. But, people are seeing something, and as long as that keeps happening we have to assume there is a possibility of an unknown creature.

mythsearcher108 on July 08, 2014:

Nessie could still live. I looked into megalodon modern day stuff and if there both sea creatures from prehistoric times. As well I read into it and loch ness used to be part of an ocean. I also saw Champ in a book and a photo with a caption said something like "scientists could not prove this photo as a fraud.

cryptid (author) from USA on January 01, 2013:

Could be, Polymath. Many researchers also think they could be a large species of undiscovered freshwater eel.

Polymath1 on January 01, 2013:

More than likely, all these Northern Hemisphere deep lake monsters will turn out to be some form of aquatic amphibian, something like a giant newt. Aquatic amphibians like newts and salamanders are well-suited to cold freshwater living and can hibernate when a lake ices over. There are known examples of nearly one hundred percent aquatic amphibians, including the Giant Chinese and Japanese salamanders, which can reach lengths of five feet. The smaller "Hellbender" of Eastern USA rivers and streams can grow to over two feet in length. There is no reason why a large aquatic amphibian...a relic species could not inhabit these Northern Hemisphere cold deep water lakes.

drewber on August 09, 2012:

Here’s the thing kids, and I’m going to sound patronising, because there are nufties out there who need to hear this – The testimony, or the eyewitness account of the average & honest man IS FINAL. This is the way it works in courts, BECAUSE IT IS THE WAY IT IS, people are basically honest. It doesn’t mean that what they saw is definitely this or that, or that what it seems to represent is this or that necessarily, because there is always the possibility of confusion or deception, however, (and hear the knocking on the side of the coconut when I say this), if average Joe tells you he saw a creature that looked like the lochness monster, that’s what he saw, and though rare, I think there have been enough sightings over the centuries to say that people have been seeing some creature that resembles the lochness monster.

cryptid (author) from USA on May 19, 2012:

Bac2basics: I tend to agree, though I try to keep an open mind. Too many people have sought the beast with no luck. However, some people have said nessie could be an ocean creature who periodically travels though the waterways that connect to the sea. I don't fully understand if this is possible. I've tried to research it on maps and it does appear there is a clear path from the loch to the ocean but there also seems to be a lot of man-made obstacles. Who knows. But I do think if there really was a population of nessies in the lake they would be spotted much more often.

Anne from United Kingdom on May 19, 2012:

Hi cryptid. I hate to say it as it would be fantastic if Nessie did exist, but I don´t think there´s anything to the myth. I´m British and have seen lots of stuff about Nessie, including the expose and all the things about the loch being scoured for evidence. It´s a grand tale but in my opinion there´s nothing down there. I live in Spain now and there´s a big lake near where I live and that does contain " monster fish" can´t remember the name of them and they aren´t native to these waters. They where stupidly introduced by someone as game fishing. They are reeking havoc with native wildlife though and need to be eradicated. Maybe that´s what´s in Loch ness? Just a thought.PS. That famous photo that was supposed to be Nessie´s head sticking up out of the water, was in fact someone swimming. If you look at it with that in mind you can actually see the truth in it. The camera does sometimes lie.

cryptid (author) from USA on May 08, 2012:

Thanks brackenb!

brackenb on May 08, 2012:

Fascinating stuff - voted up and interesting.

cryptid (author) from USA on May 07, 2012:

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. AnimalWrites - that's a very interesting couple of pics on that article.

Kalmiya from North America on May 07, 2012:

Thanks for your interesting hub cryptid. There is supposedly a similar creature in a lake in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. It's called Ogopogo (seriously!) and there are reports of sightings every year. I think the lake is very deep there so maybe these sea creatures travel via deep water. Neat subject!

ziyena from the Somewhere Out There on May 07, 2012:

I've always been fascinated by Nessie. Unfortunately I do not live near any large bodies of water but I do live in area where there is actual FOR REAL "Bigfoot" Crossing signs located on the way to Pike's Peak :)