The debate about whether or not the Loch Ness monster exists is one step closer to being solved, thanks to researchers from the University of Bath. A new theory emerged that it was "plausible" the creature walked the Earth after the team found plesiosaur fossils in a river system in the Sahara Desert.
According to People, scientists now believe that reptiles could have lived in freshwater and not exclusively seawater.
Skeptics of the Loch Ness monster often cited that plesiosaurs couldn't be in the area where the creature was first spotted because they needed saltwater. The Independent noted that the research team likened the dinosaurs to today's river dolphins.
"Plesiosaurs and other marine reptiles frequently exploited non-marine environments," the researchers wrote in the abstract for their report on Science Direct.
It is also noted that the team found bones from multiple creatures. The fossils included teeth and other fragments from at least three adults and an arm bone from a baby plesiosaur. This indicates that they moved in packs, trying to protect one another.
According to People, Dr. Nick Longrich of the university's Milner Centre for Evolution said: "It's a bit controversial, but 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."
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Newsweek reports that nearly 200 years ago, in 1823, the first plesiosaur fossils were discovered. Many note that the discovery inspired tales of the Loch Ness monster. However, scientists maintained that the creatures lived in seawater, not freshwater.
Until the new discovery.
Longrich explained that finding a skeleton together is rare. People Magazine reported that the scientist believes that isolated bones actually give more information. They explain what the ecosystems were like and how the world worked around the creatures.
"We don't really know why the plesiosaurs are in freshwater[....] Longrich said in a press release. "It's a bit controversial, but 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."
While scientists can't explain why the plesiosaurs were in freshwater, they believe that with the new discoveries, answers will be forthcoming.
One of the answers that people involved in the Loch Ness monster debate are hoping for is whether or not a plesiosaur could have lived in the Scottish Highlands. Given where researchers found the new fossils, it does seem likely that they could have been in freshwater areas.
In 2019, another group of researchers set out another theory about the Loch Ness monster. They theorized that the mysterious creature was nothing more than an eel instead of a dinosaur.
Professor Neil Gemmell of the University Otago in New Zealand told ABC News: "There is probably not a giant scaly reptile swimming around Loch Ness." Then he shared his theory that what people reported seeing was likely an overgrown eel. Though he was quick to add that "Plenty of uncertainty remains."
Those skeptical of the Loch Ness monster accepted those findings. They argued that it made more sense than a pre-historic being roaming in the waters in Scotland.
However, Longrich and his team's findings might shed some light on what happened. Newsweek reported that many believed plesiosaurs became extinct around 66 million years ago or around the same time as the dinosaurs. Some now wonder if a few of them survived and have been hiding out in the deepest recesses of the waters.
Gemmell told ABC News that he understands the mythology surrounding the Loch Ness monster and why people believe it exists, even saying the location makes sense. "It's deep dark and mysterious and it's possibly the best setting in the world for a monster mystery."