Research shows Loch Ness monster unlikely to be too monstrous

December 29, 1993

LONDON (UPI) -- New research on the ecology of Loch Ness shows the popular monster Nessie, if it actually exists, is unlikely to be too monstrously large because the lake is incapable of supporting a predator weighing much more than about 660 pounds (300 kg), British newspapers said Wednesday.

The research, due to be published in the journal The Scottish Naturalist, has prompted authorities to speculate that the Loch Ness monster could be a Baltic sturgeon, a primitive fish with a snout and spines, The Daily Telegraph reported.

``It is my favorite of the current theories,'' Adrian Shine, head of the Loch Ness Project, told The Independent. ``But it would be rather nice to think I am wrong.''

The Baltic sturgeon lives in cold northern water and grows up to nine feet (3 m) in length, weighing as much as 440 pounds (200 kg). The fish has a reptile-like look and a dorsal fin set toward its tail. The long neck seen in the most famous of Nessie photographs might actually be the sturgeon's snout, the Telegraph speculated.

The speculation about the Loch Ness monster comes as The Scottish Naturalist prepares to publish 13 papers on the ecology of the lake in northern Scotland, the most comprehensive review of information on Loch Ness in more than a decade.

The research found that Loch Ness is a nutrient-poor lake whose food chain is driven not by algae, like most lakes, but by bacteria that breaks down vegetation washed into the waterway. The result is that the lake is only capable of supporting about 30 metric tons of fish.

Researchers concluded that any small predator group in the lake would have to have a population of at least 10 to be sustaining. They also estimated that any group of predators would weigh no more than one 10th of the total weight of the fish available for them to consume.

That means any fish-eating monster in Loch Ness would most likely weigh no more than about 300 kilograms, or 660 pounds. The research prompted experts to discount any possibility that Nessie could be a left-over dinosaur, a mammal or a reptile.

The speculation about Nessie the sturgeon brings the Loch Ness legend full-circle. The first locally recorded sighting of the monster was reported in the Inverness Courier in 1868 and described it as a huge fish. Local legend has always held the monster was a fish-like animal.