Hunting for Nessie’s DNA
The emerging field of environmental DNA, also known as eDNA, will soon determine once and for all if there is any truth to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. In the past, scientists have used sonar, satellite tracking, and underwater photography to search for any evidence of the long-necked reptilian beast purportedly dwelling in the murky waters of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Nothing has been found to substantiate the hazy photos and anecdotal reports that helped create the Nessie myth. In coming weeks, an international team of researchers will scour the lake for tiny bits of DNA left behind in the skin, scales, feathers, urine, saliva, feces, and other bodily secretions of any creatures that have ever touched the water. If the fabled “Nessie” exists now or ever did occupy the waters of Loch Ness, its telltale genetic signature is still there. This DNA can be sequenced and compared with large databases that contain the genetic code of hundreds of thousands of different organisms. “I’m going into this thinking it’s unlikely there is a monster,” lead researcher Neil Gemmell tells The Guardian, “but I want to test that hypothesis.” As a bonus, scientists will learn more about new invasive species in the lake and get a detailed snapshot of its entire ecosystem.