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The Loch Ness Monster

The famous Loch Ness Monster is believed to be a Plesiosaurus, one of the great dinosaurs that roamed our oceans during the Jurassic period, 150 million years ago. The name plesiosaurus means ‘almost lizards’, which refers to their shape; not quite lizard but not quite fish. The plesiosaurus was up to 26 feet long, with a long neck and two pairs of paddle-like flippers. The plesiosaurus apparently evolved from land-based lizards which had, in turn, evolved from fish. In a sense the Plesiosaurus represents a kind of “u-turn” where evolution, having crawled onto land millions of years earlier, decided to go back for a swim.

There are two types of Plesiosaurus; long-necked and short-necked. The Loch Ness monster would be a long-necked Plesiosaur. The long neck is an adaption for hunting small fish; the large size of the plesiosaurus means it needed a long and snakelike neck in order to catch smaller, faster fish. The fish would only see the tiny head poking around, and once they saw the huge body attached to this little head they were probably dinner.

Almost 1500 years ago, when the Romans conquered Scotland, they found paintings of a strange beast, a “floating elephant” with a long neck and flippers. Thus began the legend of the world’s most famous dinosaur, Nessy. In Scottish legend, Loch-Na-Beistie were huge “water horses” which lived in the lakes and lured children by offering them rides on their backs, then stealing them to the bottom of the lake. The legend was reborn in 1933 when a new road was built along Loch Ness, and a British couple said they saw an enormous animal splashing in the lake. In 1987 a great expedition was mounted, involving 20 ships equipped with sonar, but they couldn’t find Nessy. In all over 4,000 people claim to have witnessed Nessy, which would make Nessy the most-viewed, and the most famous dinosaur, of the 20th Century.

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