The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths. But now the legend of "Nessie" may have no place left to hide. A New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to the lake next month, where they will take samples of the murky waters and conduct DNA tests to determine what species live there. University of Otago professor Neil Gemmell says he's no believer in Nessie, but he wants to take people on an adventure and communicate some science along the way, the AP reports. Besides, he says, his kids think it's one of the coolest things he's ever done—and the result will be "a really nice survey of the biodiversity of Loch Ness."
One of the more far-fetched theories is that Nessie is a long-necked plesiosaur that somehow survived the period when dinosaurs became extinct. Another theory is that the monster is actually a sturgeon or giant catfish. Many believe the sightings are hoaxes or can be explained by floating logs or strong winds. Gemmell says that when creatures move about in water, they leave behind tiny fragments of DNA from their skin, feathers, scales, or urine. He said his team will take 300 samples of water from different points around the lake and at different depths. They will filter the organic material and extract the DNA. The professor says the DNA results will then be compared against a database of known species and they should have answers by the end of the year.