Some people spend years hunting animals that almost certainly don’t exist. These people set up camera traps for the Sasquatch, examine goat carcasses looking for signs of the chupacabra, or hunting for a yeti on the slopes of the Himalayas. But perhaps the holy grail of crypto hunters is the Loch Ness Monster, and while multiple explorations of Loch Ness have been conducted over the years, none of them have ever turned up a single conclusive trace of the monster.
Of course, this is likely because the Loch Ness Monster does not exist, but that doesn’t stop dedicated hunters. A new group is embarking on a quest to find the fabled beast using one of the latest techniques of science: environmental DNA collection.
When a fish, or a mammal, or a strange unknown monster swims through a body of water, it leaves behind traces of hair or scales, and these bits of organic detritus all contain the animal’s DNA. Researchers can collect water samples, sequence the DNA they find in them, and determine what species lives in those waters.
Using this method, a group of scientists from the U.K., Denmark, the U.S., Australia and France are going to comb Loch Ness, gathering DNA samples from everything they can find. If they find anything they don’t recognize, or that looks like an ancient plesiosaur living millions of years after the species supposedly went extinct, it would be a good sign that maybe Nessie isn’t a myth after all.
That’s unlikely to happen, because the Loch Ness Monster almost certainly does not exist. Still, even if the research team finds no trace of any monster, they will still learn a great deal about what actually lives there. The researchers hope their study will help scientists understand more about the loch’s ecosystem and the threat posed by invasive species.
And perhaps along the way, they really will discover evidence of Nessie. After all, anything’s possible, right?
Previously Published by:Popular Mechanics USA