The mystery of the Loch Ness Monster has been turned on its head after new research revealed how the creature should really look.
Nessie is often depicted as a sort of plesiosaur, with its long neck and head emerging from the water, as seen in the famous ‘surgeon’s photograph’ of 1934.
But now a study of a fossilised elasmosaurus – a type of plesiosaur – has turned the idea upside down; revealing that these prehistoric creatures didn’t hold their heads that way.
Instead, the elasmosaurus held its head below or level with its body, said Paul Scofield, a curator at Canterbury Museum in New Zealand.
‘The labyrinth of the ear works best when the tiny bones within are able to hang unaffected by gravity,’ he said.
‘For this reason, the position of the inner ear within the skull of an animal reveals a lot about how an animal habitually holds it head.
‘We have examined the inner ear of elasmosaurs and determined that their resting position was with the head horizontal to the body or even well below the body.
‘This implies that they probably did not frequently hold their heads up high.’
The theory that the Loch Ness Monster is a living elasmosaurus was promoted by Denys Tucker, once a prominent zoologist at London’s Natural History Museum.
He was fired in 1960, allegedly because of his beliefs, and died unrepentant in France in 2009.
But the new research throws up a contradiction between the Nessie of popular imagination and the real elasmosaurus.
Dr Scofield said: ‘The ‘traditional’ posture shown in many a popular article on Nessie – like a sock puppet – is not something elasmosaurs were in the habit of adopting.
‘The idea of it lifting its head up like a sock puppet is extremely unlikely.’
The scientist and his colleagues made their findings after subjecting elasmosaurus remains to medical CT scanning.
It’s thought that the prehistoric creature held its head down this way to feed from the seabed.
‘They have these enormous teeth arranged in rows like a grappling iron,’ said Dr Scofield.
‘It has been hypothesised 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.’
For those who believe in the Loch Ness Monster, the findings might explain why it’s so rarely sighted with its head above water.
But for Dr Scofield, a self-confessed Nessie sceptic, it’s further proof that the monster is myth.
He said: ‘I totally reject the idea that Nessie exists and that it is an elasmosaurus.
‘Loch Ness monster records are a mixture of fakes and mistakes.’
The 1934 “surgeon’s photograph” is now widely believed to be an elaborate hoax, created with a toy submarine and wood putty.
Dr Scofield also highlighted that the scientific name for Nessie proposed by conservationist Sir Peter Scott, Nessiteras rhombopteryx, is an anagram of ‘Monster hoax by Sir Peter S’.
The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register contains six entries for 2021.
Dr Scofield and his colleagues published their study into the elasmosaurus in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
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