Loch Ness monster-type plesiosaurs could live in fresh water, fossils show


New fossils uncovered in the Sahara Desert show that the plesiosaur, a dinosaur-era sea beast often pegged to be the Loch Ness monster, was able to live in freshwater.

Sightings of the Loch Ness monster have described it as a long-necked, aquatic reptile with a small head, similar to a plesiosaur.

Skeptics of the beast, also called “Nessie,” have argued that plesiosaurs only lived in ocean salt water.

The discoveries, made in Morocco by a team from the University of Bath, showed that plesiosaurs lived and fed in the fresh waters typically found in lakes.

In a press release from the English university, study co-author Nick Longrich asked rhetorically “Who’s to say that because we paleontologists have always called them ‘marine reptiles,’ they had to live in the sea? Lots of marine lineages invaded freshwater.”

The findings, however, don’t mean that Nessie is real.

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The university press release about the discoveries also notes that “the fossil record also suggests that after almost a hundred and fifty million years, the last plesiosaurs finally died out at the same time as the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago.”

There are many plausibility issues.

For Nessie to be real, a population of plesiosaurs would have had to survive not only the Cretaceous extinction event of 66 million years ago, but move up a river into what would become Loch Ness.

From there, the plesiosaurs would have to survive subsequent shifts in the lake’s climate as the continents continued to move.

A lush prehistoric river is a far cry from a small, dark lake in the cold Scottish Highlands.

Study co-author David Martill told The Independent that he was amazed “that the ancient Moroccan river contained so many carnivores all living alongside each other,” which would require a food-rich river environment.

A stable and abundant food source is not something for which Loch Ness is otherwise known.

The earliest reported sighting of Nessie dates from the 6th century, which means a whole herd of plesiosaurs would have had to survive millions of years into recorded history.

This raises further issues of inbreeding for a theoretical Scottish plesiosaur.


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