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The discovery of new fossils leads British scientists to conclude that the past existence of a Loch Ness monster was “plausible”.
The development came about when a group of researchers discovered the remains of small, long-necked marine reptiles known as plesiosaurs in a 100-million-year-old river system in the Sahara Desert, the reported telegraph.
Believers of the Loch Ness Monster have long believed the lake creature may be a prehistoric reptile similar to the plesiosaur, but critics have argued that the monster could not live in fresh water.
The new discovery, made by researchers at the University of Bath, suggests otherwise.
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The find, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, compares the creatures to river dolphins and the fossils found include adult bones and teeth up to three meters long.
“What amazes me is that the ancient Moroccan river contained so many carnivores all living side by side,” said David Martill, co-author of the paper.
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Another of the authors, Dr Nick Longrich, said scientists “don’t really know why plesiosaurs are in fresh water.”
“It’s a bit controversial, but who’s to say that because we paleontologists have always called them ‘marine reptiles’, they must have lived in the sea?” said Longirch. “Many marine lineages have invaded fresh water.”
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A university press release said the results show the Loch Ness Monster was “on some level, plausible”.
“Plesiosaurs were not confined to the seas, they inhabited fresh water,” the press release explains. “But the fossil record also suggests that after almost a hundred and fifty million years, the last plesiosaurs finally died out along with the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.”
The legend of the Loch Ness Monster has often been attributed to a plesiosaur that managed to survive the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs.
Reports of a creature living in the lake of Loch Ness date back to the 6th century.
The first written account was recorded in AD 565 in a biography of Saint Columba. According to the text, the creature bit a swimmer and was about to attack another man when Columba intervened. He ordered the beast to “turn back” and it obeyed.
Hundreds of years later, the legend began to grow. After construction of a road adjacent to Loch Ness was completed in 1933, giving onlookers stunning views of the lake, a couple reportedly saw a huge animal they compared to a ‘prehistoric dragon or monster’ cross in front of their car and disappear into the water. The incident was reported in a Scottish newspaper and many sightings followed.
Alleged sightings continued throughout the 1900s, including research by the so-called Loch Ness Bureau of Inquiry which carried out a 10-year sighting survey recording an average of 20 sightings per year and in the 1970s underwater photographs of what appeared to be a “pinball machine” were made public.
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Moreover, several sonar explorations, notably in 1987 and 2003, were undertaken to find the elusive beast – to no avail.
Over the years more photographs were taken, but most were discredited as fakes. In 1994, the famous “photo of the surgeon” which claimed to be a photo of the monster was revealed to be a hoax orchestrated by a revenge seeker. The image was actually a plastic and wooden head attached to a toy submarine.
Fox News’ Julia Musto contributed to this report