Was the Loch Ness Monster a Giant Eel?

view up Loch Ness from Fort George

Loch Ness in Scotland’s Great Glen has the largest volume of fresh water in the whole of the UK. It is 788 feet deep (240 metres) and 23 miles long (63 Km.

On 22nd August 564 AD St Columba was the first person to record having seen the monster. Since then over the many centuries Nessie (as she is affectionately known) has been spotted a few times. The search for the monster has involved many expeditions and some at great cost.

Although those expeditions have never found Nessie, they did accumulate lots of valuable data about the incredible eco system in this wonderful Loch. The Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit has brought together all that gathered information and presented it in a fascinating audio visual display.

Other scientists too have used the data to explore the topic.  Floe Foxon has published a study which explores whether the Loch Ness Monster could be a giant eel. Using previous estimates of the monster’s size to predict the probability of encountering a large eel of a similar size, the study found that giant eels could not account for sightings of larger animals in Loch Ness.

This research casts doubt on the eel theory. The study used catch data from Loch Ness and other freshwater bodies in Europe to predict the likelihood of observing eels as large as previous estimates of the Loch Ness Monster’s size.

The chances of encountering a 1-meter eel in Loch Ness, according to the study, are approximately 1 in 50,000, which could explain some sightings of smaller unknown creatures. The probability of finding much larger eels, however, is virtually zero, debunking the theory that giant eels account for sightings of larger animals.

While acknowledging the potential presence of large eels in the loch, the study concludes that purely statistical considerations do not support the existence of exceptionally large eels.

Floe Foxon explained:

“In this new work from the Folk Zoology Society, a much-needed level of scientific rigor and data are brought to a topic that is otherwise as slippery as an eel.

“Contrary to popular conception, the intersection between folklore and zoology is amenable to scientific analysis and has the potential to provide valuable insights into anthrozoological phenomena.

“This work also champions open access science and nontraditional publishing—the future of scientific publication.”

The Loch Ness Monster: If It’s Real, Could It Be an Eel? is published in JMIR Publications.

The Loch has retained its mystery.

deep water divers suit at the Loch Ness Centre
Diver’s suit at the Loch Ness Centre

Fiona Grahame

Categories: Science

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