Wednesday, September 18, 2019

What About Eels?

Longtime readers of Augoeides should be familiar with my contention that the Loch Ness Monster could be an Atlantic sturgeon, as well as the work of Steve Feltham, a longtime Loch Ness researcher who disagrees with me and thinks it's a Wels catfish. But now a recent article from the British tabloid Mirror asks the question that neither of us are asking - what about eels?

Scientists now believe that they may have evidence that the creature could be a ‘giant eel’ after carrying a DNA investigation at the lake. Researchers have been taking samples from Loch Ness and constructing a list of the life that is in the waters by looking at genetic remnants.

Prof Gemmell, who worked on the project, said: ‘We found large amounts of eel DNA in the Loch Ness, every single site we went to had eels. Is it possible there’s a giant eel? Maybe. We don’t know if the DNA is gigantic or just many small eels.’

Let's take a look at this hypothesis. The largest eel by weight in the world is the European Conger, which can grow to almost ten feet long. That's big, but not as big as an Atlantic sturgeon or Wels catfish. I will say that a very large conger could in theory breach the water and explain some of the "hump" sightings of the creature. Looking at pictures like this one I have a much easier time seeing that as an eel than a catfish - even though it really looks more like the back of a sturgeon to me.

If it is an eel, even a ten-foot-long eel, the "hump" has to be substantially smaller than the back of a large sturgeon just because eels' bodies are so slim and the bottom of the "hump" touches the water. But to be fair, it's hard to gage size properly in a photo like this one relative to the water, since the height of waves can vary so much. It also is true that the European conger is native to coasts off Europe and Scotland, and that they seek out fresh water to spawn. That was an argument that I made in favor of a large seagoing fish like the Atlantic sturgeon winding up in the Loch.

One of the issues with an eel is that we would have to be talking about a while population given how far back the sightings go. Unlike sturgeons (which can live for over 100 years) and to a degree Wels catfish (which live about 50 years), conger eels have short lifespans. At 10-12 years they undergo a physical transformation in preparation for mating. Then, they swim inland to spawn and then die. So one of the arguments against an eel being the Loch Ness monster is that whereas one sturgeon could account for sightings going back much of a century and a few catfish could do the same, you need a lot more giant eels to get the job done, so to speak.

Even if we are pretty sure that Loch Ness monster is a fish, that doesn't necessarily make it boring. A sturgeon would be a huge discovery, in fact. The Atlantic sturgeon is so endangered that it is only known to spawn in one European river, and a second breeding area at Loch Ness would be a very big deal to conservationists. And if it's an eel or catfish, it must be remarkably large, maybe among the largest ever. Both of those could prove to be important scientific discoveries.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: