Loch Ness Spotted

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Loch Ness monster captured on video


June 1st 2007.

EDINBURGH, Scotland–The Loch Ness monster is back – and there's video.

A man has captured what Nessie watchers say is possible footage of the supposed mythical creature beneath Scotland's most mysterious lake.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this jet black thing, about 45 feet long, moving fairly fast in the water," said Gordon Holmes, the 55-year-old a lab technician from Shipley, Yorkshire, who took the video Saturday.

Nessie watcher and marine biologist Adrian Shine viewed the video and hoped to properly analyze it in the coming months.

"I see myself as a skeptical interpreter of what happens in the loch, but I do keep an open mind about these things and there is no doubt this is some of the best footage I have seen," said Shine, of the Loch Ness 2000 centre in Drumnadrochit, on the shores of the lake.

Holmes said whatever it was moved at about 6 mph and kept a fairly straight course.

"My initial thought is it could be a very big eel, they have serpent-like features and they may explain all the sightings in Loch Ness over the years.''

Loch Ness is surrounded by myth. It's the largest inland body of water in Britain, and at about 750 feet to the bottom, it's even deeper than the North Sea.

"There are a number of possible explanations to the sightings in the loch. It could be some biological creature, it could just be the waves of the loch or it could some psychological phenomenon in as much as we see what we want to see," Shine said.

While many sightings can be attributed to a drop of the local whisky, legends of Scottish monsters date back to one of the founders of the Christian church in Scotland, St. Columba, who wrote of them in about 565 A.D.

More recently, there have been more than 4,000 purported Nessie sightings since she was first caught on camera by a surgeon on vacation in the 1930s.

Since then, the faithful have speculated about it is a completely unknown species, a sturgeon – even though they have not been native to Scotland's waters for many years – or even a last surviving dinosaur.

Real or imagined, Nessie has long been a Scottish emblem. She has been the muse for cuddly toys and immortalized on T-shirts and posters showing her classic three-humped image.

On Thursday, a group of Scottish business owners launched a bid to nominate Loch Ness for World Heritage site status – though they cited its natural beauty, not Nessie. The Destination Loch Ness consortium must submit the nomination to the British government, which would decide whether to forward it to UNESCO.

The Scottish media is skeptical of Nessie stories but Holmes' footage is of such good quality that even the normally reticent BBC Scotland aired the video on its main news program Tuesday.


Plesiosaurs

(Greek: plesios meaning 'near' or 'close to' and sauros meaning 'lizard') were carnivorous aquatic (mostly marine) reptiles similar to modern turtles but without any shell. After their discovery, they were said to have resembled "a snake threaded through the shell of a turtle", although they had no shell. The common name 'plesiosaur' is applied both to the 'true' plesiosaurs (Suborder Plesiosauroidea) and to the larger taxonomic rank of Plesiosauria, which includes both long-necked (elasmosaurs) and short-necked (polycotylid) forms. Short-necked, large-headed plesiosaurs are more properly called pliosaurs. There were many species of plesiosaurs and not all of them were as large as Liopleurodon, Kronosaurus or Elasmosaurus.

Plesiosaurs (sensu Plesiosauroidea) first appeared at the very start of the Jurassic Period and thrived until the K-T extinction, at the end of the Cretaceous Period. While they were Mesozoic reptiles that lived at the same time as dinosaurs, they were not dinosaurs.

The first plesiosaur skeletons were found in England by Mary Anning, in the early 1800s, and were amongst the first fossil vertebrates to be described by science. Many have been found, some of them virtually complete, and new discoveries are made frequently. One of the finest specimens was found in 2002 on the coast of Somerset (UK) by someone fishing from the shore. This specimen, called the Collard specimen after its finder, will be on display in Taunton museum in 2007. Another, less complete skeleton was found in 2002, in the cliffs at Filey, Yorkshire, England, by an amateur palaeontologist. The preserved skeleton will be displayed at Scarborough's new Rotunda Museum, from 2007.

Many museums all over the world contain plesiosaur specimens. Notable among them is the collection of plesiosaurs in the Natural History Museum, London, which are on display in the marine reptiles gallery. Several historically important specimens can be found there, including the partial skeleton from Nottinghamshire reported by Stukely in 1719 which is the earliest written record of any marine reptile. Others specimens include those purchased from Thomas Hawkins in the early 19th century.

Historic specimens such as these are on display in several museums in the UK, including New Walk Museum, Leicester, The Yorkshire Museum, The Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, Manchester Museum, Warwick Museum, Bristol Museum and the Dorset Museum. A historic specimen which has recently been prepared as part of a scientific study was put on display in Lincoln Museum in 2005. Peterborough Museum holds an excellent collection of plesiosaur material from the Oxford Clay brick pits in the surrounding area, most of which has been collected relatively recently. The most complete known specimen of the long-necked plesiosaur Cryptoclidus, excavated in the 1980s can be seen there.

Typical plesiosaurs had a broad body and a short tail. They retained their ancestral two pairs of limbs, which evolved into large flippers. Plesiosaurs evolved from earlier, similar forms such as pistosaurs or very early, longer-necked pliosaurs. There are a number of families of plesiosaurs, which retain the same general appearance and are distinguished by various specific details. These include the Plesiosauridae, unspecialised types which are limited to the Early Jurassic period; Cryptoclididae, (e.g. Cryptoclidus), with a medium-long neck and somewhat stocky build; Elasmosauridae, with very long, inflexible necks and tiny heads; and the Cimoliasauridae, a poorly known group of small Cretaceous forms. According to traditional classifications, all plesiosaurs have a small head and long neck but, in recent classifications, one short-necked and large-headed Cretaceous group, the Polycotylidae, are included under the Plesiosauroidea, rather than under the traditional Pliosauroidea.

Unlike their Pliosaurian cousins, Plesiosaurs (with the exception of the Polycotylidae) were probably relatively slow swimmers. It is likely that they cruised slowly below the surface of the water, using their long flexible neck to move their head into position to snap up unwary fish or cephalopods. Their unique, four-flippered swimming adaptation may have given them exceptional maneuverability, so that they could swiftly rotate their bodies as an aid to catching their prey.

Contrary to many reconstructions of plesiosaurs, it would have been impossible for them to lift their head and long neck above the surface, in the 'swan-like' pose that is often shown. Even if they had been able to bend their necks upward, to that degree (they could not), gravity would have tipped their body forward and kept most of the heavy neck in the water.

Lake or sea monster sightings are occasionally explained by cryptozoologists as plesiosaurs. While the survival of a small, unrecorded breeding colony of plesiosaurs for the 65,000,000 years since their apparent extinction is unlikely, the discovery of real and even more ancient living fossils such as the Coelacanth and of previously unknown but enormous deep-sea animals such as the giant squid, have fuelled imaginations.

The 1977 discovery of a carcass with flippers and what appeared to be a long neck and head, by the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyo Maru, off New Zealand, created a plesiosaur craze in Japan. Members of a blue-ribbon panel of eminent marine scientists in Japan reviewed the discovery. Professor Yoshinori Imaizumi, of the National Science Museum of Japan, said, "It's not a fish, whale, or any other mammal." However, the general consensus amongst scientists today is that it was a decayed basking shark.

The Loch Ness Monster has been reported to resemble a plesiosaur. Arguments against the plesiosaur theory include the fact that the lake is too cold for a cold-blooded animal to survive easily, that air-breathing animals like plesiosaurs would be easily spotted when they surface to breathe, that the lake is too small to support a breeding colony and that the loch itself formed only 10,000 years ago during the last ice age.

However, these arguments have all been opposed by Robert Rines, who said that "animals can adapt" and that "some reptiles can stay in water for a long time". "Many sightings tell of "horns" or "ears", which may be nostrils. If it (the monster) breathes regularly, it could breathe without being noticed".

The National Museums of Scotland confirmed that vertebrae discovered on the shores of Loch Ness, in 2003, belong to a plesiosaur, although there are some questions about whether the fossils were planted (BBC News, July 16, 2003).

Beached carcasses that prove controversial or hard to identify, a phenomenon known as globsters, have fueled the debate about living plesiosaurs. It was reported in The Star (Malaysia) on April 8, 2006, that fishermen discovered bones resembling that of a Plesiosaur near Sabah, Malaysia. The creature was speculated to have died only a month before. A team of researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sabah investigated the specimen but the bones were later determined to be those of a whale.

On November 2, 2006, Leslie Noč of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, UK, announced research which casts further doubt on a plesiosaur inhabiting Loch Ness. While many sightings of the monster include reports of it lifting its head out of the water, including the Spurling photo, Noč's study of fossilized vertebrae of a Muraenosaurus concluded this articulation would not be possible. Instead, he found that the neck evolved to point downwards allowing the plesiosaur to feed on soft-shelled animals living on the sea floor.

Another creature closely resembling a plesiosaur has been reported to exist in Lake Khaiyr in Eastern Siberia. However, due to the extreme remoteness of the location and the fear of volcanic activity, the lake is rarely visited by scientists or tourists and consequently there have been few sightings.

See also "Sea Serpents of Canada"

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