However, despite recent findings that suggest plesiosaurs were adapted to tolerate freshwater and might have even spent their entire lives in it, a research project published to the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by scientist Paul Scofield showed that plesiosaurs were actually very unlikely to ever lift their heads above the water.
It is much more likely, according to Scofield, that plesiosaurs used their long necks to dredge the seafloor.
“They have these enormous teeth arranged in rows like a grappling iron,” he explained. “It has been hypothesized that they floated on the surface and dredged the seafloor blowing the dirt out through their teeth and leaving just the clams. Thus, their feeding method dictates the neck length—it’s just like the giraffe but in reverse.”
Some believers might argue that this only explains why any plesiosaurs inhabiting Loch Ness aren’t seen with their heads above water more often, but Scofield dismisses any belief in the monster entirely.
“I totally reject the idea that Nessie exists and that it is an elasmosaurus,” he said. “Loch Ness monster records are a mixture of fakes and mistakes.”
Plesiosaurs have begun to fall out of favor as an explanation for Nessie in recent years, following a 2019 study conducted by Neil Gemmell, a New Zealand scientist and professor at the University of Otago.
Gemmell’s study involved gathering water samples from multiple locations and at different depths of the loch to scan for bits of animal DNA, and then working to identify it. The samples were sent to labs in New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, and France which used large sequence databases to compare the DNA found in Loch Ness with the majority of known living things. This was done to help distinguish and identify any potentially unknown genetic material.
The results revealed no evidence of any large animals such as sturgeon, catfish, sharks, or surviving prehistoric plesiosaurs, but they did show an abundance of eel DNA.
Many now point to giant eels as a possible explanation for the monster, although, as of yet, no definitive proof of their existence in the loch has been found.
But cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard has another hypothesis for the Loch Ness Monster.
“Based on thousands of eyewitness descriptions, I’m convinced that Nessie is just one of many such unknown creatures around the globe—Norwegian sea serpents, Champ and Ogopogo here in North America, lake monsters in Scandinavia, Russia, Japan and Argentina, among others—and that these animals represent the very same species, most likely descended from an ancient group of serpentine whales,” he told the Ross-shire Journal in 2021.
Some witnesses, like McGarvey, do describe what they’ve seen as having whale-like qualities.
Although the vast majority of whales are found in saltwater, some whales can occasionally be found in freshwater rivers and lakes looking for food.
Supporters of Gerhard’s hypothesis might argue that the relative scarcity of credible evidence for a “monster” in the loch might be because they don’t live there full-time, but rather, only travel there in search of food.
However, there is currently no definitive proof for the existence of whales in Loch Ness, and thus, the sightings remain unexplained.