University of Otago scientists make a surprising DNA discovery in Loch Ness

Researchers from the University of Otago, who have been undertaking a study to document the biodiversity of Loch Ness by collecting DNA left in the lake, have revealed that they have made a surprising new discovery about the Loch’s famous monster resident.

The research team, led by the University of Otago’s Professor Neil Gemmell, who specialises in genomics, ecology and evolutionary biology, has spent the last year collecting and testing hundreds of water samples from three different depths of Loch Ness.

Using a new technique that can pick up traces left behind by passing animals in miniscule amounts of fur, skin, scales, faeces or urine, they have been able to extract and sequence the DNA. This has enabled the team to create a near-definitive list of everything that lives in the loch for the first time.

The full findings of the study are expected to be announced at a press conference in Scotland next month, but Professor Gemmell has already hinted that preliminary findings were “surprising” and that at least one of the popular theories about who or what Nessie is, might be correct.

Professor Gemmell refused to say which hypothesis scientists were leaning towards, but did say “We’ve tested each one of the main monster hypotheses, and three of them we can probably say aren’t right and one of them might be.”

One popular theory is the monster is a plesiosaur that somehow survived the period dinosaurs were wiped out, while another is that the creature is a sturgeon or giant catfish.

The full study is due to published in July 2019 – so the world will find out soon!

If in the meantime, you would like to find out more about the University of Otago and it’s research, you can start by reading their profile on our website, or contact Study Options to find out more about applying to study at the University.

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