Is the Loch Ness Monster a Living Plesiosaur?
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.
Amazingly, the answer may lie more in science and paleontology than myth.
What are the chances a prehistoric sea beast may have survived all of these thousands of years, its ancestors now taking the form of the lake and sea monsters of our legends?
If you believe the Loch Ness Monster exists, something has to account for the creature, and it just so happens that an animal matching its description has already lived on this planet.
The Plesiosaur Theory
A plesiosaur was an order of aquatic creatures that existed in 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 different kinds of plesiosaurs. Several, going by the fossil record, probably looked pretty similar to the reported description of Nessie and other lake monsters. Could it be possible there are isolated pockets of plesiosaurs in Loch Ness and around the world, rarely sighted by humans?
This would go a long way toward explaining a creature otherwise unknown to science.
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.
More importantly, 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.
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. Then again, with so many sightings in lakes and oceans around the world, maybe it hasn’t exactly gone unnoticed.
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 as 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.
Could the Loch Ness Monster Be a Greenland Shark?
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 we just don't know. 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. Could the ancestors of the ancient plesiosaur have learned to be more stealthy and hide beneath the waves?
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, or 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.
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.