use of eDNA sampling is already well established as a tool for
monitoring marine life like whales and sharks.
Whenever a creature moves through its environment, it leaves
behind tiny fragments of DNA from skin, scales, feathers, fur,
faeces and urine.
"This DNA can be captured, sequenced and then used to identify
that creature by comparing the sequence obtained to large
databases of known genetic sequences from hundreds of thousands
of different organisms," said team spokesman Professor Neil
Gemmell of the University of Otago in New Zealand.
The first written record of a monster relates to the Irish monk
St Columba, who is said to have banished a "water beast" to the
depths of the River Ness in the 6th century.
The most famous picture of Nessie, known as the "surgeonís
photo", was taken in 1934 and showed a head on a long neck
emerging from the water. It was revealed 60 years later to have
been a hoax that used a sea monster model attached to a toy
Countless unsuccessful attempts to track down the monster have
been made in the years since, notably in 2003 when the BBC
funded an extensive scientific search that used 600 sonar beams
and satellite tracking to sweep the full length of the loch.
The most recent attempt was two years ago when a high-tech
marine drone found a monster - but not the one it was looking
for. The discovery turned out to be replica used in the 1970
film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes", which sank nearly 50
Gemmell's team, which comprises scientists from Britain,
Denmark, the United States, Australia and France, is keen to
stress the expedition is more than just a monster hunt.
"While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness
monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary
amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about
organisms that inhabit Loch Ness," Gemmell said on his
He predicts they will document new species of life, particularly
bacteria, and will provide important data on the extent of
several new invasive species recently seen in the loch, such as
Pacific pink salmon.
Their findings are expected to be presented in January 2019.
(Reporting by Ana de Liz; editing by Stephen Addison)
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