Kiwi researchers searching for Nessie will scour Loch Ness for 'fish dandruff'

Otago University Professor Neil Gemmell says he's not a big believer in the Loch Ness Monster - but he's willing to go there and test the water for DNA anyway.

Professor Neil Gemmell says every living organism in the lake leaves traces of DNA, and those can be filtered, harvested and catalogued. Source: Breakfast

Professor Gemmell, speaking this morning to TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, said the process of testing water for DNA could provide a lot of information for researchers.

"We go to Loch Ness, we sample water, we filter it, we extract the organic material that's in it and then we extract the DNA," he said.

"Then we compare those DNA sequences to things that are in all the databases around the world ... fish dandruff if you like - yeah I know, a bit gross.

"In the case of the Loch Ness Monster, of course, we'll be testing hypotheses about whether there is this giant, scaly reptilian monster that people claim to have seen."

Many people have claimed to have seen Nessie over the years, with many sightings either proven to be hoaxes or still unexplained.

The most common myth is that Nessie is a large, reptilian creature similar to a plesiosaur - a dinosaur with world-wide distribution which was prolific until the end of the Cretaceous Period about 66 million years ago.

"If it's a biological entity and it's swimming around in Loch Ness, then it should be leaving traces of its presence in cells and DNA that we can extract," Professor Gemmell said.

"Now, I'm not a great believer in the Loch Ness Monster, but I'm willing to go there and test the idea, and I'm also willing to test the idea that there could be other explanations for the myth - like various giant fish that have been purported to have been in Loch Ness.

"If it looks like something that fits into the reptilian part of the tree of life, we should be able to figure that out."

The testing will take place next month.