Fossil hunters claim to have found the bones of a huge, ancient sea creature which is the spitting image of our own Loch Ness Monster.
Of course, to say it looks like Nessie would mean these fossil hunters would have to have seen Loch Ness’s best kept secret…
Anyway, researchers found the fossil in Antarctica – so not that far from Scotland? – and they believe it to be around 70 million years old.
The animal, which was 40 feet long, would have weighed around 15 tonnes, and is the largest example ever found of the reptile family elasmosaurid.
Researchers believe the long-necked animal is a plesiosaur, which somehow survived when the dinosaurs were wiped out.
Thanks to its long neck, some people how suggested this creature provided the beginnings of the Loch Ness Monster myth.
Plesiosaurs were long-necked, air-breathing dinosaurs, but were very capable swimmer. However, they would stick their heads out the water every few minutes to catch their breath.
The fact these dinosaurs spent most of their time in the water will have added to the legend of Nessie, as the water would have helped support its massive weight.
Researchers have often speculated whether Nessie was a surviving sauropod – a group of dinosaurs which had long necks, long tails and small heads.
The new fossil is that of an aquatic reptile, which swam in the seas during the Cretaceous period. It is now one of the most complete ancient fossils ever discovered in Antarctica.
The team who discovered the huge fossil think it belongs to a species called elasmosaurs, but needed to compare it with other specimens to make sure they knew what they were dealing with.
José O’Gorman, a paleontologist with the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) told National Geographic:
For years it was a mystery … we didn’t know if they were elasmosaurs or not. They were some kind of weird plesiosaurs that nobody knew.
The discovery actually dates back to 1989, when William Zinsmeister of Purdue University discovered a fossil on Seymour Island, just south of the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
At the time, the team didn’t have the resources to excavate the whole thing however, and it wasn’t until 2012 that a team from the Argentina Antarctic Institute got involved. They eventually finished uncovering the skeleton in 2017.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.