In 2018, a global team of scientists used cutting edge DNA sampling techniques to probe the murky waters of the loch. Using technology pioneered for the Human Genome Project they will reveal what species live in that dark, mysterious loch.
What is the Loch Ness Monster? Ever since the first reported sightings in the Dark Ages there have been various theories: some say it’s a prehistoric relic, some say a giant sturgeon, others say a stick or a boat wake.
The Super Natural History team are using environmental DNA sampling of the loch waters to identify the tiny DNA samples left behind by life in the loch. A high tech scientific test first developed in the 21st Century meets a story that began in the 6th.
The world has waited more than a thousand years for an answer. It’s finally arrived.
Catch the story of the search on the Travel Channel, September 15
The Loch Ness Monster Story
Every year hundreds and thousands of people visit the Loch Ness region. Some come for the beauty of the location, some come for the richness of the region’s history. All of them come hoping to get a glimpse of the creature locals call Nessie.
And every month over 200,000 people search the web for stories of Nessie. There are plenty of such stories, with over 1000 sightings of something strange in Loch Ness that began with an Irish saint in the year 565. Almost as many stories of hoaxes, frauds and cases of mistaken identity help keep the Loch Ness legend alive today.
Even with no large creature cruising its depths the loch itself is a monster! Loch Ness is the UK’s largest freshwater body — large enough to hold all the water from every lake, river and reservoir in England and Wales combined.
In 2018 a team of scientists, led by Neil Gemmell of New Zealand, visited the mysterious waters of Loch Ness. What began with a handful of scientists on a boat in Scotland has become a scientific operation that spans labs in the UK, USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Test tubes of loch water meet giant databases of DNA to unmask the identity of every species living in Loch Ness today.
Life is messy. Whenever a creature moves through an environment, it leaves behind small clues about itself. They leave behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers, fur, faeces and urine. This DNA can be used to identify the creature. Samples of DNA found in glacier samples identified the presence of woolly mammoths hundreds and thousands of years ago.
But environmental DNA isn’t just for finding mammoths and monsters. It has a vital role to play in the way we analyse and protect the biodiversity of our planet.
We acknowledge the significant support of Adrian and Marylyn Shine of the Loch Ness Project and the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, with access to facilities, boats, equipment and expertise during our investigations. Colleagues at the University of Otago, University of Copenhagen, University of Highlands and Islands, University of Hull and the University of Bangor all contributed to the testing at Loch Ness last year. DNA was extracted at the University of Hull, processed for analysis at Université Grenoble Alpe and sequenced at Fasteris with the support of Illumina. Analyses were undertaken at Otago, Université Grenoble Alpes, University of Hull, John’s Hopkins University and the University of Santa Cruz. Qingdao Huakai Ocean Science and Technology Co. Ltd supplied the rope that enabled the researchers to sample to the very depths of Loch Ness. The wonderful Greg Ellis and Adam Blackwell at Stun helped us with branding and website design from the launch to the completion of this project – these guys rock!