Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Surface Sightings Have Told Us About Morphology

(This is Part 2 of a 3 part article.  To view Part 1 first, click here)

A New Morphology vs Classic Sightings (Part 2 of 3)
What Surface Sightings Have Told Us About Morphology

This brings us to our most extensive repository of morphological data, our treasury of eyewitness testimony.  Compiling statistics for his 1976 book, Roy Mackal estimated there had been at least 10,000 reported sightings to that point, but only about 3,000 of these had been recorded in written form or official reports.  From those he extracted 251 reports as the most useful and representative for conducting his own analysis, and reproduced the details of those sightings in table form.  While somewhat dated by the 36 years that have passed since then, this is still a remarkably handy resource.  Dr. Charles Paxton of St. Andrews University is currently working on a paper on Loch Ness sighting statistics, for which he gave a talk at Edinburgh earlier this year.  Reportedly he had also concentrated on 250 sighting reports (at least so far) for analysis, so perhaps that is a magic number (or at least a manageable one).  In any event we look forward to his paper.

One of the few things I bring to the table when it comes to discussing all this is a minor background in statistical analysis.  It also means I know when I've been bettered, so to the relief of the reader at this point, I'm not about to attempt to duplicate, recompile or fling statistics at you.  Besides, I've retired from that line.  Sufficient to the current purpose will be my own take on the consensus of what is contained in historical sightings, expressed for the most part in relative terms, although some quotations of the statistical findings of others will be noted at points critical to the discussion.

Here we have the structural features as reported in surface sightings:

SIZE (and by inference, MASS and POPULATION)

Length estimates from sightings range from about 9 to 60 feet, but I would halve those few high-end reports to only 30 feet on the assumption a few extreme cases were simply bad estimates, or cases of two animals seen close together but mistaken for one larger specimen (an occurrence that seems decidedly less rare the more I've reread the old reports).  So a length of 20 to 25 feet is what has been more typically reported for surface sightings, and as we'll get too much later a smaller range of only 15 to 20 feet for land sightings.  It's from here I make the size estimate in my earlier diagram.  (I am entirely ignoring a couple extreme outliers here.  At the low end we do have the June 1937 Smith/Considine sighting of a trio of eel-like animals, long-necked, four-flippered, dark grey and only 3 feet long apiece, seen trailing their boat; perhaps baby Nessies, but these sound more like visiting seals to me.  Then there's the occasional mention of 100 foot multi-humped lines on the Loch we must attribute to misidentified wakes or standing waves.)

For estimating girth, which I'll express as the width and height of the animal, surface sightings are less than ideal as the majority of the body remains below the waterline.  A very tiny percentage of witnesses have reported rolling, but were otherwise lamentably short of providing us anatomical details!  Humps reported above the waterline are often in the range of 2 to 3 feet wide, and standing (when reported) 1 to 2 feet above water.  As most of the body mass must still be below the waterline, these animals must have large mid-bodies indeed, on the order of 5 to 6 feet thick to account for two-foot high humps floating above water.  I've settled on the notion that they are a bit wider than they are vertically deep, as illustrated in my earlier diagram which I'll repeat for convenience just below.  Even so these creatures must have a deep draught; considerable mass has to occur below the waterline to anchor the long, usually 6 foot protrusion that's occasionally raised above water, whether you choose to call that protrusion the tail as I do, or a long neck.  While many salamanders have such stout builds, this is a marked departure from the body shape of the three current and recognized species of Cryptobranchidae.  The giant salamanders of China, Japan, and North America are longitudinally quite flat.  But then they need to be to fit their environment and life cycles, which include hiding under rocks, facing fast river currents, and swimming upstream in mating season to reach their spawning ponds.  The river dwelling Cryptobranchidae must present as narrow a cross-section as possible to minimize the energy expenditure of facing the continuous currents they live in.  Permanent residents of a deep lake, the Loch Ness Giant Salamanders have no need of such adaptations in structure or behavior, nor do they have to fit under rocks to remain unseen when they have hundreds of feet of peaty water to hide under, and many feet of silt on the bottom, as opposed to mere inches of clear water in the streams where the Cryptobranchidae are found.

But while not ventral-dorsally flattened, the abdomen of our creature isn't exactly cylindrical either based on what we know of the triangularity of the humps (see below).  In my Working Morphology diagram I've depicted a body shape modeled more on L. axolotls than on any of the Cryptobranchidae species.  (Axolotls are highly neotenic aquatic salamanders, known for reaching reproductive maturity although morphologically they remain tadpoles throughout life.  This indeed harkens us to some sighting reports, such as that of James Cameron in 1933, who saw a 14 foot long, three humped animal in Loch Ness that "looked like a huge tadpole".)

The degree to which salamander bodies are laterally flattened depends not just on the species, but the type of water (still or moving) into which they are born.  Larva of the same species develop quite different body plans dependent on whether they are hatched in stream or pond (see diagram here), with the pond offspring having abdomens of considerably greater draught, along the proportions I've depicted for the Loch Ness Giant Salamander.  Hopefully without insulting any Highlanders, I would call Loch Ness more of a pond than a river, albeit a "pond" of immense proportions.

Based on my proposed morphology, we're looking at an animal about the size of a female killer whale, Orcinus orca.  The female orca only range from 16 to 23 feet feet in length, but these whales are built quite robustly, more so than our Loch Ness Giant Salamander, which I believe would weigh well under the typical 3 to 4 tons of a female orca.  Now also to be taken into account is that Orcinus orca has a very massive skeleton.  Giant salamanders have relatively light, cartilaginous skeletons, and we must expect the same to be true of a species in Loch Ness.  Halving the top mass of a female orca twice (once for overall build and once for lower bone density) I would estimate we're looking at large specimens of Nessie reaching no more than one ton, with typical adults perhaps only three quarters of that.

(With a working body mass in mind, it is rather irresistible not to take a small digression from morphology into population estimates.  One of the most recent estimates of the mass of available prey in Loch Ness was 177 tons calculated by Roland Watson here.  Thomas Mehner in his 2009 paper "A study of 66 European lakes" found the median predator-to-prey biomass ratio to be 0.321 (ranging from a low of 0.061 to a high of 1.384), suggesting that the biomass of piscivorous lake populations is on average one third that of the mass of available prey.  Using this median value, and assuming a metabolic requirement equivalent to that of these carnivorous fish, there is enough food in Loch Ness to support a maximum population of 76 three-quarter-ton predators (177 tons of fish times 0.321, divided by 0.75 tons per predator).  Not being taken into account here is that salamanders can have the lowest metabolisms of any tetrapods (the Siberian salamander being the most extreme case, as it can have an effective metabolic rate of virtually zero while being frozen for years at a time).  Andrias japonicus, the Japanese Giant Salamander, can go for weeks without eating.  Therefore Mehner's median ratio may not be the applicable number here, in which case the maximum population estimate of 76 is to be taken as highly conservative.  Applying the top ratio Mehner obtained yields a maximum population as large as 327 three-quarter-ton predators in Loch Ness.  Assuming this is the correct body mass, the true population of Loch Ness Giant Salamanders no doubt falls somewhere between these extreme estimates of 76 and 327 (the average here being 202).  The lowest number may be somewhat problematic for a permanently resident, healthy, viable breeding group, but again this is based on the conservative assumption metabolism is as high as Mehner's median value.  If true metabolic data revealed a species with lower feeding requirements than an average predatory fish, then the lid would be off the 76 animal maximum.  Keep in mind that even if the available prey estimated above were halved, Mehner's top ratio would still allow for as many as 163 predators of three-quarter-ton size.)


Click on diagram for larger image
Humps are the most frequently sighted and reported feature.  Sometimes stationary, sometimes slow moving, and on rare occasions reported to be moving at great speed.  Short spurts are one thing, but aquatic animals do not normally move at great speed with their backs above water for any significant amount of time.  This latter behavior wastes far more energy than swimming below the surface, and simply put no animal ever does this on a normal basis.  One could still debate however what Nessie herself considers "fast" or "significant time", as these are relative terms.  But humps, if continuously well above water, and reported to be moving at great speed for extended periods of time, do not appear likely to have anything to do with aquatic animals. 

The most classic and oft reported sightings are of single humps presenting the appearance of an upturned boat, especially when the hump is viewed end-on.  If the animal is triangular in cross section, as I've depicted in my head-on illustration, that's easy enough to understand.  More consideration must go into accounting for the fact these up-turned boat sightings come in two distinct forms: smooth, and ridged.  Because the tail's dorsal fin extends partway up the back, this would result in a slightly serrated line running up the middle when the hump is viewed from behind.  But when viewed from the front, this ridge would not be visible and the hump would present a smooth appearance.  This accounts for both ridged hump and smooth hump sightings.

But along with our single hump sightings there are substantial occurrences of multiple humps, often more than two but rarely more than four.  The numbers even vary over the course of a single sighting and, probably most problematic of all, pairs of humps have been seen to merge into one single, longer hump.  Do we have a vertically undulating, multi-coiled sea-serpent after all, or an aquatic Bactrian camel?  Actually the independent horizontal motion in many such sightings, along with the evidence of the Gray Photo, tell us it's not unusual for the members of our elusive species to travel in pairs.  That certainly accounts for some such sightings.  Actually though the morphology of salamanders, as Mackal pointed out in 1976, makes them an ideal fit for explaining any number of the multi-humped sighting aspects, and that's only with invoking the tail and caudal fin.

The top of the head, being two feet thick from top to bottom and as much as three feet long (see my diagram), easily provides another hump for multi-hump sightings.  The small eyes could easily be overlooked at the range of most sightings, and could even remain submerged with the top of the head still protruding a foot above waterline.  The tail (or more precisely the tail fin) seen breaking the water in profile easily provides the appearance of another hump, or humps.  If the dorsal caudal fin sags in the middle, it can provide a view of what would appear to be two humps by itself.  Thus even a single giant salamander seen breaking the surface in profile can account for sightings of up to four humps.  The number of humps perceived can even vary during the course of the sighting because of the flexible behavior of the caudal fin.  The tail fin can also lie flat, causing a perceived hump or pair of humps to disappear while those caused by the back and head remain visible.  Even to all this we may add that, while salamanders are built to flex and swim horizontally (unlike mammals which flex ventral-dorsally) they still have quite a degree of vertical "bendiness" to their spines.  The cartilaginous skeletons of aquatic salamanders no doubt make this possible.  They sometimes float with backs arched, and sometimes with spines almost horizontal to the waterline.  This not only accounts for the occasional acuteness noted in Nessie's dorsal hump, it also explains how the contour of that hump can change right before the witnesses eyes into one longer, straighter dorsal line.

Hump sightings are also our main source of reports for the coloration and texture of Nessie's integument.  The most common color reported is black to dark grey, followed by reddish brown and more rarely an olive or khaki green.  All of these colors occur in salamanders in general, and are not always species dependent.  When any part of the underside is noted, it usually seems to be a lighter shade of the dorsal color, or even white.  The skin texture is often compared to that of an elephant.  Some have described it as smooth, while others wrinkled.  As Tim Dinsdale pointed out, rough skin can look smooth when wet and shiny and seen at a distance, but smooth skin always appears smooth at any distance whether it's wet or dry, leaving us with the inescapable conclusion Nessie has a rough hide.  Wrinkled skin is most consistent with the giant salamanders among the Cryptobranchidae, as is the most frequently mentioned color of black.  These giant salamanders are dependent on dermal respiration, and the wrinkling provides greater surface area for the absorption of oxygen.  Sometimes Nessie's skin is reported to be very glossy or reflective, even slimy, either overall or in part.  In the Gray Photo we see how much more reflective the wet areas are, consistent with the landing areas of the water being thrashed up.  Salamanders are of course well know for their shiny dermal secretions, a defense mechanism brought on by stress or excitement, which can give them both a slimy appearance and a smoother looking dermal texture even when they are quite wrinkled.  The range of observed skin colors and textures is most easily accounted for by Amphibia, but becomes a serious problem if we try considering candidates other than giant salamanders to be behind the mystery in Loch Ness.

Humps also occur, albeit quite rarely, in the presence of another visible structure, a lengthy six foot protrusion we'll get to shortly.  When I say "quite rarely" I imagine many readers might be surprised by that and hasten to disagree.  But in rereading all 251 sightings Mackal (1976) employed as data, and of these eyewitness accounts looking at all in which both hump and long appendage features are reported, an almost invariable pattern emerges: the hump submerges when the neck-like appendage comes up, or the neck-like appendage submerges when the hump comes up.  The appearance of both parts simultaneously above water is extremely rare.  Yes, one can find exceptions to this, such as the group sighting by the four ladies in September 1933 in which two humps were observed behind an almost vertical, frilled neck-like object.  A few exceptions are readily enough accounted for by the infrequent but recognized occurrences of two of the animals in close proximity to each other, a circumstance which might easily have gone unnoticed during this September 1933 sighting because it was made from a distance of 1,000 yards.  In any event this pattern of alternated rather than simultaneous views of the "neck" and humps holds for the vast majority of sightings that include any mention of a neck-like appendage.  This makes it very safe to say this appendage cannot flex vertically at an acute angle to the spine, an anatomical detail to be kept in mind.  The consistent submergence of the hump before this long appendage rises above water tells us we are not dealing with a vertically flexible structure, in this regard perfectly consistent with the laterally flexing tail of a giant salamander.

APPENDAGES (from surface observations)

Our knowledge of Nessie's limbs based on accounts of surface sightings is minimal to say the least, and has long been a mystery within a mystery.  Flipper shaped appendages have been reported in less than 2% of surface sightings, usually just one pair at the end of the animal the witnesses took to be the front.  Alexander MacDonald reported his "great salamander" approached him by means of paddling with two short limbs.  Over the ages eyewitnesses have also reported hoof shaped appendages on Nessie, perhaps harkening back to the Water Horse tradition.  My own amateur attempts to sketch flippers often come out looking more like hooves than fins, as the outlines of both seen in silhouette are actually similar.

A webbed foot.  From left to right: (1) open or fanned, (2) contracted or in profile, or (3) seen in shadow or silhouette.  The latter could easily be taken for a flipper (and even bears some resemblance to a hoof in profile).

Much more frequently reported than flipper or paddle sightings per se are hump sightings accompanied by splashing on either side.  Obviously our mysterious beast comes equipped with some bilateral organs or appendages with which to do the splashing, and flippers or webbed feet are the natural explanations.  But which is it, or is it both?  Flippers or fins can be accounted for by fish, including eels, but only an aquatic tetrapod can account for both those and/or webbed feet.  The trouble with surface sightings is that the parts that normally stay below the waterline will seldom be observed.  Hugh Gray didn't even notice the appendages during his famous sighting, yet his photograph shows a posterior water spray with the blurred after-image of a flipper-like object in the pelvic region and, better yet, the upper part of an anterior limb meeting the body above water, just behind the head of the nearer animal.  An observer can easily miss the limbs even when the camera captures them, as it did on this singular occasion.

There is however more data about our creature's limbs to be gleaned from another and much more telling source: land sightings.  These are a category unto themselves and are covered at the end of this article. 


Over and over through the years, we have heard of "the head which could not be distinguished from the neck and merely looked like a continuation of it" (Witchell, 1975).  What is labeled to be the tiny head, this undifferentiated tip of the long serpentine appendage in these particular sightings, rarely shows any visible details, much less details specific to heads such as eyes or a mouth.  This begins to beg the question, are these really heads in the first place?  Perhaps an answer lies in the way this tip moves.  Others have noted, and Tim Dinsdale once observed "On several occasions the head has been seen to turn rapidly from side to side 'as quick as a hen' or to shake itself vigorously, giving the appearance of acute awareness both of sight and sound" (Loch Ness Monster,  Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1961).  I fear a certain amount of anthropomorphism may be at work here.  And keen eyesight is highly unlikely in a benthic animal from deep, dark waters -- quite the opposite.  My contention is the tiny "head" that moves rapidly side to side on the end of the serpentine "neck" has to be the tip of the tail flapping, flopping, and curling:

Along with this "head" motion come reports of rapid undulations of the attached "neck".  But necks don't normally undulate in any species.  Tails undulate, and the tentacles of cephalopods undulate, but necks as a rule do not.  If Nessie is any form of tetrapod, the only conclusion can be that this type of head-neck sighting actually represents the tail.

There are a couple of curious details that do get sighted with some regularity in these small head-long neck cases, one being what appears to be a mane starting at varying distances below the "head", sometimes on the dorsal side, sometimes on the ventral side, sometimes on both; I shall venture an explanation for that in the next section, covering the structure of the tail.

And the most curious detail of all perhaps, a pair of stalks or knobbed horns such as observed by area resident Mrs. Greta Finlay during her famous sighting of August 1952, but occasionally mentioned by others as well.  That Mrs. Finlay and her young son had one of the closest encounters ever with our unusual beastie is hard to doubt.  She estimated she could have hit it with a pebble, and her son was so terrified by the look and proximity of the animal that he put away the new fishing pole he'd gotten that day and avoided the water's edge ever after; Tim Dinsdale reported the fishing rod was still untouched in the Finlay attic when he interviewed Greta eight years later.  The Finlay caravan had been parked near the water at a point where it shelves very rapidly to a depth of 100 feet, which would permit a large animal to swim in quite close to the shingle; but Greta only reported the visible animal to be 15 feet long, small by Nessie standards, so the terror elicited in this case sounds more based on nearness and details of the creatures appearance.  And yet Greta Finlay, who arguably has had the closest look during any tiny-head/long-neck sighting of the creature (perhaps 20 yards away in broad daylight), could see neither eyes nor mouth on what she took to be the head, even though her testimony implies she studied the "head" intently; Tim Dinsdale confirmed this was her observation during his interview with her.  To my mind, no eyes and no mouth once again equates to no head here!  Yet she did see the curious detail of the knob-ended stalks.  Perhaps, as I suspect, someone else making the same sighting from a greater distance, and end-on, could mistake the knobs for eyes and report a "definite" head to further confusticate the tail/neck issue.  Fortunately for us trying to get to the structural details, Great Finlay didn't make such a mistake.  (If there are indeed a pair of bumps on the tail tip, we need look no further to account for the miniscule number of times eyes have been reported on a small head atop a swan-like neck, such as the May 1943 Farrel sighting.)  I've had reason to refrain from including these rarely seen and highly mysterious protrusions in my working morphology for now, but will come back to them.  The point for the moment is that once again, due to the absence of mouth or eyes, we are looking not at a head-neck but at a tail and its curled over tip.

Now we come to the one great inconsistency in eyewitness testimony regarding the Loch Ness animal.  There are a number of reports of very large heads.  Reported as flattened, or sometimes triangular, and often dog-like or sheep-like, but without ears.  Heads estimated to be 2 to 5 feet long, and 12 to 18 inches wide!  In these sightings the head is set low in the water and no long, serpentine necks are mentioned.  A hump is sometimes seen close behind the head; clearly a short-necked animal.  Well we'd hardly expect a long, thin neck to support so large a head in the first place!  One Mr. H. L. Cockrell came very close to getting us a photo of the very large head he saw protruding from the water, from his kayak in 1958, but snapped the shutter just a little late; we are left with a hump photo instead, and what may be just the top of the head submerging a few feet to the right of the hump.  (As both hump and head are creating wakes in this photo, I'm not inclined to accept the idea Cockrell photographed a floating stick, after first hallucinating a head raised in the same spot.  Here I agree with Dinsdale: Mr. Cockrell probably had one of the most dangerous encounters with An Niseag since St. Columba's time.)

Based on these observations, and consistent with my interpretation of the Gray Photo,  I've chosen the following dimensions for the head of my 25 foot virtual type specimen depicted at the start of this article:  3 feet long, 2 feet thick, and 2.5 feet wide at the widest point, tapering to about 18 inches wide at the blunt snout.  A short, thick neck of 1 foot in length and 2 feet in thickness joins the head to the body immediately before the anterior limbs.  As the head and neck are the same dimensions viewed laterally and not well differentiated from each other seen from the side,  they could be taken together as a 4 foot long head.  This makes the head/neck region of the Loch Ness Giant Salamander 16% of these animals' total length.

Furthermore, we get slightly more head-related detail in the large head sightings, although not always consistent:  no eyes visible, small eyes seen, large eyes, round eyes, elliptical eyes, and slitted eyes.  Actually the shape of the eyes should vary by the viewers' perspectives.  In the Chinese Giant Salamander the eyes are small, rounded, lidless, and in a dorso-lateral position that makes them difficult to spot when seen head-on, or slit-like when viewed from above.  They would best be viewed laterally, from which perspective they do appear round; and that's also exactly what we have with the eye visible on the head in the Gray Photo.

Perhaps the best look at (and into) Nessie's mouth was the A. H. Palmer sighting of 1933, an unusually long sighting of a large, flattened head protruding from the water, mouth opening and closing rhythmically for 30 minutes.  This latter "air gulping" behavior is witnessed in all amphibians at some point, but most famously in frogs.  Palmer's view was head-on to the animal from only 100 yards away.  He estimated the mouth was 12 to 18 inches wide, opening as far as 6 inches, and observed that the interior was red.  The latter detail is certainly an exceptional one to be reported.  Here we have a rather intimidating headshot of China's A. davidianus for comparison:

This would be the last view of A. davidianus as eye-witnessed by many a fish.  Note the left eye can barely be made out if you look hard, about 3 inches above the mouth and 4 inches from the side.  The forced perspective belies the fact this is a 5 to 6 foot specimen.  Coincidentally, the tail is lying in a rather suggestive, neck-like pose.

There is one other detail to the Palmer sighting that again can only be called most curious.  Palmer reported short antenna, or horn like projections on either side of the head!  Here we have stalks of some kind mentioned again, but on a large, salamander-like head.  No knobs this time, as with the similar structures reported on the tiny-headed (read tail-tip) sighting of Greta Finlay.  Clearly, we don't have Nessie's with both miniscule heads on long thin necks, and huge heads on short thick necks.  Nor should we reasonably postulate a second unidentified species in Loch Ness on so small a basis.  Do we have something like elongated sensory tubercles on both the head and tail?  Perhaps not impossible.  The known species of giant salamanders are replete with short, you could even say knob-like tubercles almost everywhere (more so the Japanese species than in the other two), but never elongated ones.  In the Loch Ness Giant Salamander, the distance from the tip of the tail to the brain is some four times greater than it is in the Chinese Giant Salamander, so perhaps some larger, more developed sensory tubercles had to evolve to keep pace with the increasing distance to the brain.  That might account for larger knobs on the tail tip, but doesn't help at all to explain stalks or horns on the (large) head at the front end of the animal.  Herein lies a mystery I'll return to in my future article on taxonomy, as I suspect the potential classification of the species may literally hinge on the true nature of these enigmatic little head stalks. 

THE TAIL'S TALE  (or, The Story Of The Headless Neck That Never Was)

At one-third of the overall length of our animal, a whopping 8 feet long in typical specimens, the tail of the Loch Ness Giant Salamander is a marvelous structure.  So too are the tails of all salamanders, but those of aquatic salamanders, whether they be in the advanced order of Salamandroidea or in the primitive order of Cryptobranchoidea, are remarkably muscled limbs of rapid propulsion.  While speed estimates from surface sightings are highly subjective, we know from the Tucker sonar studies I mentioned in an earlier article that 20 foot specimens can manage at least 17mph below water, with an incredible diving rate of 5mph (this is faster than fish, with their open swim bladders, are capable of doing -- this diving speed is one of the reasons fish can be ruled out in establishing Nessie's identity). (In all fairness it should be pointed out that there are other interpretations of the Birmingham University sonar data.  Specifically that during some of the most pertinent readings, the thermocline was at its most reflective, and a surface craft had indeed passed through the area, the wake of which could have caused some spurious sonar reflections.)

Although rarely spotted and identified as the tail in most surface sightings, there seems to be universal agreement among eyewitnesses that when it is recognized, the tail is quite long, laterally flattened, blunt ended, and moves with rapid sinusoidal undulations.  That is an exacting description of an aquatic salamander tail, and the way in which it moves to provide rapid propulsion.

Also noted in some tail-specific sightings are the presence of a caudal fin, and the sudden widening of the tail where it meets the body.  This widening at the base, it should be noted, is also attributed to the supposed neck in long-neck sightings.  More interesting however is that caudal fin, a structural trait present to one degree or another in all neotenous aquatic salamanders.  They appear to be key to efficient undulatory swimming above certain speeds in open water (see Korsmeyer, Steffensen, and Herskin, 2002, "Energetics of median and paired fin swimming, body and caudal fin swimming").  It seems wherever Nessie may have started its evolution, it came pre-adapted to swim like a torpedo when it got into the wide open waters of Loch Ness.

A caudal fin often collapses or folds down out of water, so there is nothing remarkable in that it goes unseen in most sightings of the tail above water.  The dorsal caudal fin in the Loch Ness Giant Salamander has been noted to not extend all the way to the tip of the tail, and we seem to have corroboration of this in the Gray Photo.  This is different than in the Crytobranchidae, in which the ventral and dorsal caudal fins extend all the way to the tip and actually appear to meet, and also different from the caudul fins of eels.  Whether Nessie does or doesn't have a ventral caudal fin has not been determined, although I suspect one is present and have indicated such in my diagram.  There are however wide variations in the tail fins of aquatic salamanders even within species, so neither outcome would be surprising.  But of interest for entirely different reasons, the location of this caudal fin that stops short of extending all the way to the tip coincides with the reported location of a fin, frill, or mane below the "head", on the back of the "neck" where it meets the suddenly widening body in several of the long-necked animal sighting reports.  This is not coincidence.

Now we come to it.  The "trouble" with a giant salamander in Loch Ness, and with a short-necked model of Nessie is that this "new" morphology cannot be reconciled with sightings of an animal with a tiny, almost indistinguishable head perched atop a long serpentine neck.  (It seems widely assumed there have been many such long-neck sightings, when in reality my manual tabulation of the Mackal data reveals only 15% of surface sightings fall unequivocally into this category, with another 3.3% open to interpretation.  More current statistics would be welcome, but for now it appears witnesses at Loch Ness have only claimed to see long necks 15% of the time, and claimed to have seen heads of any kind attached to them in even fewer cases!)  Must we contrive a long-necked animal to explain these sightings?  I've been dropping clues to the contrary throughout this article, but lastly it is these characteristics of the tail, presented here, that should end all argument (although I am not so naive as to believe the argument will ever go away, not even if we catch a Loch Ness Giant Salamander to keep on public display.)  It's actually far easier to reconcile the morphology of a giant salamander with the actual sightings than it is to reconcile it with cultural tradition, even a tradition that didn't truly emerge until the 20th century.  It's likely far more people adamantly believe Nessie has a long neck and tiny head than there are people who have ever seen any part of the animal in question.

In part, people report or think they see what they expect to see, and the plesiosaur theory has become deeply engrained in public consciousness since the 1930's.  Dinosaurs were a new revelation to late Victorian culture, and every early discovery was treated as hot news to be seized upon by the press.  The enduring popularity of such period books as Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, Doyle's Lost World, and the early motion picture King Kong remind us that only eighty years ago modern society became enamored with giant, prehistoric animals for the first time, and the tantalizing notion that somewhere, somehow, a few of them might have survived.  And Darwin's Origin of Species had everyone talking and thinking about human evolution.  Every cryptic, legendary or mythological animal from the dragon to the yeti was suddenly a candidate standing in for some longed-for prehistoric remnant species.  Which might be to say, a longed-for component of mankind's rapidly fading past.  Perhaps the psychological component to all this came about because Europe was running out of unexplored territory and undiscovered animals on the rest of the continents, or so it thought.  North America was settled, and the British Empire had colonies and outposts everywhere from India to Africa.  The telegraph and radio were shrinking the world at an alarming rate.  The notion that the long-known but mysterious and unidentified animals living in one Scottish lake had to be dinosaurs was just one of many reactionary responses to the "future shock" unsettling post-Victorian thinking.  Ironically it was conveniently overlooked that plesiosaurs weren't technically dinosaurs in the first place, but that was merely splitting hairs.

And then came the Surgeon's Photo.  The most iconic and popular picture to ever come out of Loch Ness.  But not necessarily iconic because it was greatly definitive or detailed or all that good a picture, or even authentic, but because it fulfilled human expectations.  There for all the world to see swam the plesiosaur, in swan-like, noble repose.  Just what the world wanted.  There's a bit more irony in that we now know the vertebrae of plesiosaurs a bit better, and they couldn't actually bend their necks back and tilt their heads in that manner, but that's just one more thing conveniently overlooked by proponents of a long-necked, marine reptile explanation for the unusual animal in Loch Ness.

Earlier I stated my belief that any authentic sighting of Nessie in which a long neck was spotted must have been a misidentification of the tail as the neck. The case has been made before that some of the long serpentine neck sightings could just as well be sightings of the tail.  Roy Mackal made the point that most eyewitnesses viewed what they reported seeing from such great distances, there was no objective basis for categorizing them into either neck or tail sightings; he treated such sightings as equivalent data for statistical purposes, and combined them in the same column for the extensive Surface Sightings spreadsheet he created (The Monsters of Loch Ness, Swallow Press, 1976, Appendix A, Table 1).  Mackal and C. S. Wellek, who did the illustrations for Mackal's first book, seem to have hedged their bets on the neck issue; their drawings of the hypothetical amphibian on page 215 depict a creature with a head-neck region some 20% of overall length, midway between the long thin neck of a plesiosaur-shaped animal and the shorter and thicker one of a salamander.  I was always curiously dissatisfied with these beautiful illustrations, as the neck interpretation looked unnaturally pushed and pulled between conflicting data like some piece of taffy.  Mackal was indeed onto something though in considering the sightings of long serpentine structures just as likely to be tails as they were to be necks.

 As discussed in the earlier section on humps, simultaneous appearances of a hump and a long, neck-like appendage are actually very rare, but can still be readily enough accounted for by the tail of a short-necked animal protruding above the water:

Image Copyright (c) 2012 Steven G. Plambeck - All rights reserved

More often however, if a hump is above water and the animal pitches forward, the tail emerges as the hump submerges, the tail twisting or rolling a bit towards the tip because it's natural flexure is lateral.  This fold or bend near the tip creates the illusion of a small head, leading observers to believe a tail is a neck.

Nearly the rarest sighting reports of them all are those that describe both a long neck and a long tail witnessed together.  This kind of report is even rarer than reports of two animals observed at once.  Needless to say then, there must be cases of two animals showing visible parts at once that are not recognized as more than one animal, owing to distance, lighting, and point of view.  These latter cases account for the few combined neck and tail reports readily enough.  Two animals can show us two tails at once.  Witnesses unaware they are watching two animals, and expecting to see a long neck, would undoubtedly attribute one long appendage to the neck and the other long appendage to the tail during any of the rare occasions two tails were visible at once:

Image Copyright (c) 2012 Steven G. Plambeck - All rights reserved

Having established that the tail is mistaken for the neck in all of the long-necked sightings also means that, historically, we have had a greater number of tail sightings than previously realized, and hence a slightly greater opportunity to collect rare details about this part of the animal even though we didn't realize it when the original data was reported.  It is therefore time to re-sift all of the long neck sighting data we have through the filter of new knowledge, to see if there are tidbits of old information we can now recognize.  This is a project unto itself, and left for another day.  But here is one example worth an immediate digression.  And a test of any new theory is to see if it sheds light on any old, but highly anomalous data.  If a piece of the puzzle that wouldn't otherwise fit suddenly begins to fit, it's a good sign the theory is on the right track.

Qualifying as both a unique and a previously inexplicable description of a "monster" in Loch Ness, we have a quote from a letter by Highland historian David Murray Rose referring to how the Loch Ness locals described their 'water-horse' in the mid-17th century.   The discovery of this Rose letter, from which I'll quote just a snippet below, was made by Roland Watson and is discussed more thoroughly in his book (The Water Horses of Loch Ness, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011, pages 68 to 77).

To quote Rose: "Old people said it was a 'water-horse' or 'water-kelpie', because it had a head that looked like a cross between a horse and a camel, but its mouth was in its throat (italics mine)."

Some strange observations have come out of Loch Ness, but as far as I know this is the only mention of an animal with its mouth in its throat or neck!  One could hypothesize someone had tried to decapitate Nessie with a broadsword, and she'd escaped with only a gash in her neck, but that would be reaching.  That this locating of the mouth in the throat is attributed to prevailing opinion of the time rather than a single sighting may imply this feature was observed more than once during this period.  Such a weird piece of data, and so old, it surely must belong to some entirely different puzzle, so we can safely throw it away as having nothing to do with Nessie or our Loch Ness Giant Salamander.  Or, could it?

A salamander's cloaca

While not usually glimpsed from above, there is a cloaca at the ventral base of every salamanders' tail.  It can be more pronounced in some specimens than others, and it can be much more pronounced at breeding season than at other times, but it is always there, and as the picture illustrates it can look very mouth-like.

Now all amphibians have cloaca (as do all reptiles, birds, monotremes, and certain fish).  Any time an aquatic salamander were to lift its the tail above water, there is a chance, however slight, to glimpse this posterior orifice.  Being on the underside it would almost always go overlooked, unless of course the animal was listing to one side, or rolling.  A few modern observers have reported rolling, but never during sightings that were close enough to note anatomical details usually hidden below the waterline, other than the lighter color of the underside.  Even the limbs, which we know are present in at least one pair if not two, have never been reported during one of these rolls.  Suppose during the mid-17th century someone luckily observed a roll from closer range, or witnessed a floating specimen listing to one side, thereby exposing its cloaca to observation?  We can safely assume that if the tail is mistaken for the neck in modern sightings, the same error has gone on in the past.  In that case, observers who glimpsed the orifice at the base of what they assumed to be the neck would have no other way to relate what they'd seen except to say "but its mouth was in its throat".  Changing the identification of the "neck" to the tail, we have an elegant explanation for what was actually reported.


If, as I assert, the long appendage when viewed above water is always the tail, and as the tail is presumably the principle means of the animals' propulsion, then we must account for the apparent motions of specimens during the course of such sightings.

First, we have established so far that surface sightings alone tell us there must be at least two, and possibly four limbs with which the animal can paddle, and that they can raise a considerable disturbance in the water tells us they are not completely ineffectual.  Secondly, in rereading the remarks to all 251 sightings recorded in Mackal's 1976 table of eyewitness observations, cross-checking neck/tail sightings against any reported movement, something quite telling emerged:  in all but six cases, the animal was reported to be stationary or moving slowly while the neck/tail appendage was above water.  In two of these six cases, the speed of the animal was reported as "fair" or "moderate", leaving only four cases where the object was reported to be moving fast or at speed with the "neck" above water (cases I'll come back to in just a few paragraphs).  By contrast, there are plenty of accounts of Nessie making speed, just below the water or with only a hump or dorsal edge breaking the surface.  Sonar has shown the animals making speed at depth.  Why can't Nessie make any speed when her neck is above water?  Because that isn't the neck at all, it's her primary form of propulsion, the tail.

When surface motion is both slow and in the direction opposite that in which the tail is tilted we can naturally visualize the animal beneath the water is paddling forward (the animal on the left in the diagram below).  But in these cases, if the observer believed the tail was actually a neck, wouldn't they report they saw Nessie swimming backwards?  That doesn't seem to be mentioned in any of the accounts.  Very often though what we do hear a comparison of the supposed "neck" to a telegraph pole, completely or nearly vertical; that may be true, or it may be the effect of the angle of observation; the closer to vertical the "neck" appears to be, the less possible it becomes to judge if there's any tilt in the direction of travel.  Add to this that most surface sightings are at too great a distance to even distinguish whether the appendage seen is a neck or tail, along with the fact the observer usually has no objective basis for knowing which way the submerged body is facing, and the direction in which the tail is tilted actually becomes guesswork.  If slow or minor motion is observed, anyone with the preconceived notion the visible appendage is the neck might think they see a tilt in the direction of movement even where no such pitching exists.  The tip of the tail folded down or curled to a horizontal position, being taken for the head, may also be taken as a pointer for direction of movement, even when no movement is actually occurring.

Watching, waiting, and keeping pace...  Slow movement to adjust position is possible with the paddling action of limbs alone, regardless of inclination of the tail when exposed above water.  Such motion is entirely consistent with the little if any movement reported in the overwhelming majority of head-neck sightings

Now consider the opposite case.  Motion appears to be slow and in the same direction as the "neck" is tilted (animal on the right in the above diagram).  Here it appears the animal is moving in the same direction the "neck" is pitched.  No one would report backwards swimming now, as they are seeing what they expect forward motion to look like.  And yet, being an aquatic animal, there is no basis for assuming which way the sub-surface appendages are moving.  In this case movement in the same direction as the tail is tilting requires the animal to paddle backwards!  Now is that reasonable?  Well, not being aquatic animals ourselves, we're more used to land animals like dogs and sheep, horses and cows, normally walking in just one direction: forward!  What must be remembered here is that an aquatic animal, used to three-dimensional movement at will, can paddle forwards, backwards, or in circles to its heart's content.  Any fish or giant salamander, regardless which way it's long axis is pointing, can back up whenever it wants or has reason.  The vertical tilt of the tail, which is going unused for propulsion when it's above water, is actually irrelevant to the direction of movement in all these cases.

Consider: what type of behavior might we be witnessing when the Loch Ness Giant Salamander floats nearly motionless, near or on the surface, tail up and head down, perhaps making slow adjustments in position with only slight motions of its limbs?  Head down is probably the significant clue.  The tail isn't being deliberately lifted above water for any purpose at all; rather, the entire body is canted at an angle to keep the head pointing downwards, and it is merely coincidental the animal has reason to be at the surface in the first place.  (Recall in the first part of this article we established definitively that any visible hump almost always submerges when the long appendage rises above water, and that this tail almost always submerges before a hump rises above water; the animal is actually adjusting its entire pitch.)

The reason for striking such a pose and calmly holding its attitude for many minutes, is consistent with the behavior of known giant salamanders freezing as their prey swim near.  While the river species live in shallow waters and lie in wait on the bottom for passing fish, momentarily freezing when one is near the mouth to allow it to blunder into striking range, a giant salamander adapted to deep water would have to float near the surface or just above the littoral shelves (which brings it near the surface) to be near its food supply.  Fishermen traditionally hold that dawn is the best time of day for fishing, as fish rise to feed as the encroaching daylight begins to warm the surface.  Fishermen apparently are not the only species aware of this advantageous timing, not if you will recall that the majority of all sightings of the unidentified species in Loch Ness occur in the earliest hours of daylight, with between 80% and 85% of reported sightings falling between sunrise and 9:30 am (Dinsdale, 1961).

At first it might seem counter-intuitive that the Loch Ness Giant Salamander would hold its main form of propulsion perfectly still while feeding, whether the tail is below water or protruding above (temporarily depriving it of any high speed maneuvering).  But the known species of giant salamanders do not chase their prey, which would be far too costly in terms of energy expenditure.  They float rather passively among their prey, or just above or below, and employ a method of vacuum feeding.  When a fish passes close enough to the front or side of their large, wide mouths, they snap their jaws open so rapidly that the prey is sucked into the sudden vacuum created in the empty space between the jaws, and then they snap their mouths shut again so quickly that the fish literally seems to vanish into nothing.  The other nearby fish don't even seem to notice the sudden "evaporation" of their comrade, and neither panic nor flee.  The salamander hasn't had to move a muscle or expend any energy other than the single snap of its elastic jaws, and the next victim remains in close range, as calm as if it was swimming near a log.  (Some excellent footage of a Japanese Giant Salamander, Andrias japonicus feeding can be found in the documentary series Planet Earth.)  The main difference here between the known species of Cryptobranchidae and our Loch Ness Giant Salamander is that the known species have no great depth to hover over.

The final stumbling block to my proposal that the appendage above water is never a long neck may at first appear daunting, but is actually the case that cements the argument.  What of those mere four sightings (out of 251) that I mentioned earlier, where the animal, long neck-like appendage clearly above water, appears to swim at great and/or sustained speed?  These exceptions are so few, it is tempting to cherry-pick around them rather than let them upset my working morphology.  (Unfortunately, by extension of this logic we could almost ignore all long head-neck sightings, as they comprise as little as 15% of the 251 overall sightings referenced here in the first place.)  How to account for the animal swimming at its highest speed if that "neck" held high is really the tail, which needs to be beneath the surface to propel it?

In fact these remaining head-neck sightings of Nessie moving at speed pose no trouble at all, for a quite simple reason:  aquatic animals never swim at sustained speed with a substantial part of their bodies above the surface and adding drag.  None of them.  Period.  The hydrodynamics of sustained surface swimming are energy-prohibitive due to wave resistance, or "surface tension" if you will.  It costs an animal 5 times less energy to make speed when it is entirely below the surface.  And in the animal kingdom, calories equal food, food equals survival, and it is survival that dictates behavior.

Therefore any reported sighting of a neck-like object above water, and sustaining high speed, could not be the neck of the animal, or any animal, because it couldn't be an animal in the first place.  Yes, short bursts of a couple seconds may be accounted for by flipper or paddle action alone, leaving the tail free to be the part seen above water.  But no animal, even if it had both a long neck and a long tail, would ever swim at sustained speed with that neck held above water.  We can also be sure plesiosaurs never swam that way, even if they were otherwise candidates.  That there are only a miniscule number of such long-neck, high-speed sighting reports (1.59% on Mackal's extensive list) is actually quite a good thing to know.  Any such sightings must be cases of misidentification of non-living objects (i.e. speedboats), and it is reassuring to find out such eyewitness mistakes have been exceedingly rare.

This last hurdle behind us, there is no remaining reason to postulate a long neck for Nessie to explain any of the surface sightings.  All can be accounted for by the appearance of the tail alone.

(In the upcoming Part 3 of this article we will examine:
"What Land Sightings Have Told Us About Morphology")


  1. Excellent article Steve.

    Something to add that I know you are aware about, is that if there is a large predator in the loch, the estimated biomass of prey would be the leftovers. While it is possible the loch is capable of supporting more biomass of prey, I am not sure if that can be determined.

    Interestingly enough, I recently seen that Jeremy Wade of River Monsters will be traveling to Scotland to visit the loch. I believe the episode is on May 27th.

  2. Thanks Insanity!

    Quite right I brought that up somewhere before. The reasoning went, if we had a magic fish counter we could wave over the Loch, and it told us the exact and true number of living prey fish at that precise moment, it would actually be a count of the survivors since the predators had their last meals :) Of course no such measurement is possible, but inferred in the "magic measurement" example is this much true logic: if we were to measure (for example) an estimated 150,000 tons of available prey is indeed present, that doesn't mean the number wouldn't be higher, say 200,000 tons, if there was no hypothetical predator around keeping the number down to 150,000. It's the same as saying deer populations would be higher if there's no road-kill.

    It's a bit different if you estimate total biomass first, and then allocate a percentage of that mass to prey and the remaining percentage to predators, using empirically obtained data such as that which yielded Mehner his ratios. But to get an accurate result in a new situation, you need to know more about the nature (specifically metabolism) of the predators included, not to mention an accurate count for the total biomass, which in a Loch as large as Ness isn't easy. If anything important comes out of this, it's merely that even the conservative estimates leave room for a breeding group of largish predators.

  3. For those of you who did not come to this article through the link over at, you'll find many comments and a lively discussion about it going on at:



    Neotoneus salamanders are floating upside down at the surface. Up turned boat any one?

  5. Thank you very much Christopher! That's a brilliant little tidbit with some interesting ramifications -- upturned boat indeed! I think this needs to be promoted up to a post so those who don't re-check comments to an older article get to share in it, along with a few comments I'm already thinking to put with it, duly crediting you by name of course if you don't mind.

    Good stuff for sure!

  6. How do you explain the sightings ( many of them) of the neck at the front of the hump moving forwards? Are you actually saying they are moving backwards leaving a wash? Im sorry but this is ridiculous

  7. Anon, this is one question I never tire of answering, as it's another opportunity to clear up one of the great misconceptions about Nessie sightings. You needn't apologize, you are among the many who have been mislead.

    There are no statistically significant reports of the neck at the front of a hump, moving forwards, backwards, or even sideways! There are countless DEPICTIONS of Nessie imitating a swan, but these are artistic license and bear no resemblance to the aggregate of witness reports. You've been sold on a caricature of what people have actually been reporting, and it's crept into and corrupted the public consciousness.

    What DO people report when they think they've seen Nessie? I worked with Mackal's published data, reread the reports and did my own tallies in preparing this and the previous articles, and in 85% of the collected reports only humps, one or more at a time, were seen. Only humps, usually described as resembling upturned boats.

    That leaves just 15% of the time when something that could equally well have been called a long neck or tail was witnessed. You might ask, well which is it? 7.5% necks and 7.5% tails? We're getting into smaller and smaller numbers here. Maybe a clue to the breakdown is that a head or headlike features (mouths or eyes) go almost unreported, although a tiny percentage of this already tiny percentage sometimes think they've seen one or the other.

    But here is where this really gets interesting. I said 85% of sightings were humps only, but the other 15% are NOT exclusively "neck or tail" sightings. Humps and "necks" DO occur together in several of the same sightings that comprise these 15%. What's oh-so telling is that they never appear simultaneously. Witnesses report a "neck" submerging before the hump rises, or they report a hump submerging before a "neck" rises, but the one thing least reported is a hump and "neck" above water at the same time! There are possibly more LAND sightings than there are hump+neck sightings (even if it were a neck). Slogging through reports the one thing that emerges is that the "neck" and hump ALTERNATE appearances above the waterline. You can have one or the other, but you can't have both. There's clearly an anatomical reality to infer from this.

    But wait, it gets more interesting. We haven't talked about motion. I tried to clarify this in the article above, but here it is again short and sweet. When the long appendage (your neck, my tail) is above water, there is little or no horizontal movement reported in these sightings. Yes, I was surprised too. What motion >is< reported by the witnesses in these cases is >slow<, and sometimes accompanied by noticeable splashing on the sides, as might be caused by limbs paddling (and sometimes these limbs are even spotted). Another anatomical constraint becomes apparent: the animal cannot move at speed with the long appendage above water. But with the long appendage submerged, humps have been observed to move at >great< speed, or considerable wakes are generated by the object just below the surface. This, combined with the usual 'headlessness' of the long appendage when it's reported, are the important clues to the true identity of this structure: it is the tail, and the animal's primary means of propulsion. It can slowly change station, even direction or facing, when the tail is above water because it has limbs to paddle with. But it can't show it's hump, because it's long axis is pointed downwards. And it can't move at speed until it lowers its tail back into the water.

    If there were many sightings of a neck in front of a hump speeding forwards then we'd be talking about something else. But as it is, that's not what witnesses have been reporting, cartoons and movies notwithstanding.

  8. Take a look at the discovery chanel documentry, three seperae witnesses seeing a huge hump and head and neck travelling forwards from dores to foyers at the same time on the same night. One lady even took photos of the wash it left. Three very believable witness's and two adamant head and neck was seen. They both drew photos with head and neck clearly at the front moving from right to left from their viewpoint. So this cannot be a tail unless it was moving backwards. And i have read a few reports of neck at the front moving forwards.

  9. Discovery Channel documentaries are in such disrepute with science right now and with cryptozoology in particular, that's really the last source you want to invoke!

    Just the fact these alleged witnesses saw so much at NIGHT makes me rather dubious of their testimony. I don't normally investigate separate sightings, and I'd hardly start with this one considering its source!

  10. Thats a poor answer. You have ducked that one.these are reported sightings that the discovery chanel investigated. It wasnt done for the chanel. And it was 7.30 at night and not dark. Well it looks like you are dismissing this story as a lie or a mistake so if thats the case shall we dismiss all reported sightings? Actually the woman was with her boyfriend , the other man with his 25year old son and the other lady was with her children. So more than three witness's.Are they all wrong?

    1. Less a poor answer than a refusal to. If you want my opinion on a specific sighting, then give me a sighting report or witness interviews with sources and details, independent of what appeared on a Discovery Channel piece. What are these persons names? What was the date, time, and weather conditions? (I see 7:00pm at least came out in your last comment.) What were their exact reported locations? (Between Dores and Foyers is at least half the length of the whole Loch!) And who did they report this to, and how soon after the sighting? And then the observation details of each. Lastly, does any of this jibe with what they said on the Discovery documentary? Does it jibe with actual conditions on the Loch at the reported times (which is something the researcher would independently verify on their own). Who else has analyzed this and what were their conclusions? And if there's corroborating photos or video, where are they published? To say "take a look at the Discovery channel" is a poor way to frame a question!!!!!!

  11. Hmmmm interesting this one. Steve is dubious over these sightings because they are at ' night' ? Strange when you think Dinsdale said there was more credible sightings at night and early morning. And didnt Rines spend 30 years looking for nessie after his original sighting ( wih 3 other people) at 10pm ! Steve's other reason for doubt is its ' source' hmmm. Here we have 3 sets of people adamant they saw it but because of its source he doubts it. Incredible when you think he is quick enough to believe one man hugh gray. Who was Gray's source ? . Seems to me steve has dismissed this sightinn because it doesnt fit in with his tail waving 30ft salamander, his designed monster to fit in with the sceptic science ! And i have seen this programme and if im right it was more evening than night and conditions were very clear. And lets not forget even in the highlands it doesnt go dark until 10 ish in the summer ( which im sure this sighting was )

    1. Dubious is a good first response to any exceptional claim, Sid. I'm more dubious because of the source than the time of the sighting, which wasn't stated as 7:30 until a subsequent post by Anon. How dark it would have been at 7:30 still depends on the date and weather conditions, phase of the moon and other things. And even in ideal conditions, distance is a huge factor, and I've no idea what distances we're talking about here. If you were to claim to see unusual anatomical detail at 500 yards at night, I'd be far less inclined to believe you than if you'd said 50 yards at noon.

      I believe multiple different parts of the animal above water at once qualifies as unusual, only because it has been reported in an infinitesimal percentage of the cases. That it DOES happen has to be dealt with, on a case by case basis, but there are not "many of them" as Anon first stated.

      For the head+neck+hump+forward motion sighting we've been dancing around here, the only source cited so far is still the Discovery Channel, a source that has a bad reputation to begin with. For Hugh Gray's sighting, the sources include the press stories and reporter interviews at the time, and numerous published follow-up interviews by Loch Ness investigators over the years, including Tim Dinsdale and Ted Holiday, and their subsequent analyses of Gray and what he told and showed them. To top that off, Gray got an intriguing photo of what he saw, and it has been extensively published and subjected to much analysis, including by myself.

      So I'm not cherry-picking to concentrate my efforts on real data as opposed to an anecdote related once on a TV show. I'm being realistic.

      Sid, I'm not designing a monster. I'm following evidence to find out where the truth leads. And if you think the premise of my blog panders to any skeptics, then you haven't collided with very many die-hard skeptics yet! That I'm out to determine the nature of an animal that hasn't been proven to exist by any scientific standards yet, well, that hardly endears me to the folk you'd call skeptics :) You'll find a few of them over at Roland Watson's blog, giving him a harder time than me, if you really want to.

  12. Well funny that becsuse it says 7.30 in paul harrisons book which was written aprrox 13 years ago. And it was in june ( so still very light) and the creature wasnt so far away. In fact one even got clear photos of the wash it left. Another lady who had lived by the loch for 20 years said the wake was unlike any other wake she had seen. Ok Steve you choose to ignore this , fair enough. And you say this is only one account of the head and neck moving forward well your wrong, there are plenty. You just choose to ignore this because it doesnt fit in with your salamander monster that fits the answers for the sceptics.

    1. So NOW there's a book and author reference, and at least a month if no exact date and year. Seriously, I'm supposed to just know which sighting we're talking about when the info trickles out slower than molasses? And half a dozen replies constitutes ignoring it?

      Don't take my word for it. Sit down with a nice table of sightings such as in Mackal's book (very well organized, although old now) a sheet of paper, and a pencil. Make columns and start tallying: hump seen, head/neck seen, hump+head/neck seen alternating, hump+head/neck seen simultaneously, and stationary, moving slowly, moving at speed. Total your columns and convert to percentages. The SMALLEST number you're going to find is for what you're talking about: head+neck+hump+forward motion all together at the same time. Make of that extreme rarity what you will. But stop saying it isn't rare.

  13. What about the sighting years ago on the horeshoe scree? When the alleged creature was out of the loch andthe head and neck was clearly seen ?

    1. Thanks Anon, that's quite an important question! That was Torquil MacLeod's sighting of February 1960, possibly the most important of all sightings because he was a naturalist and trained observer, and had the great fortune to watch the the animal half out of water for an amazing 9 minutes. I think the details he reported are among some of the most essentially informative we've ever gotten, and will be devoting a portion of Part 3 of my morphology article to this when it's eventually published.

      But to answer your immediate question, in his letter to Constance Whyte immediately after the sighting he wrote "Most unfortunately the head is too small to show any details" and seemed to be facing away from him for all but 1 second of the whole sighting. Keep in mind now, that's 1 second out of 9 minutes, or 1/540th of his sighting he thought he >might< have glimpsed the head. To Nicholas Witchell (p 144 of "The Loch Ness Story") MacLeod described the animal's head and neck as being similar to an elephant's trunk. And if you've seen the reconstructions done by Alan Jones from MacLeod's original sketches (same page in the Witchell book but also available all over), there's really no head on the end of the "neck". Parsimoniously the explanation must be one thing: MacLeod wasn't observing the neck, he was observing the tail. There are two more >independent< details to the sighting that bolster this argument which I'll include in the final article.

      This isn't to say the animal had backed out of the water, although there's no reason to say it couldn't. It could equally well have been completely out of the water before MacLeod spotted anything, by which time it had crawled halfway back into the water.

      And I'll address the other famous land sightings as well in part 3.

  14. How much info do u want ? Ok to be precise it was 17 th june 1993 and the lady in mention was Edna Macinnes. At least 5 people saw this amazed your harping on again above of a sighting by ONE man! He could be lying. But you ignore a sighting by 5 people because it doesnt fit into your tail waving salamander theory. 5 diffrent people must be telling the truth. Ok mate no point in me giving my views because you only see what you want to see. Basically the amphibian is a cop out for all the believers when they thought they had realised the plesioaur couldnt live in loch ness. Simple!

  15. Well if you read the encyclopedia of the LNM by paul harrison a very large percentage of the sightings have a head and neck moving forward. So your wrong mr plambeck on this. And can i ask a question? If it is a large amphibian then why only in loch ness?

  16. Sorry for the delay but I've been kept away with family matters for a few days. By way of catching up I'll try addressing both of the last comments in one go...

    Unfortunately I don't have Harrison's book but I'll be keeping my eye out for a budget/used copy. It's readily available but at prices outside my budget.

    In any case the data base assembled is only as good as the criterion used in selecting it, and that will always introduce an element of subjectivity. Until I've read the book I can't judge anything. But I do know Mackal applied rigorous scientific method in his work, so the sightings data he compiled in the 1970's may be deemed reliable. And as stated in my article, long neck-like protrusions above water (or tail-like, take your pick) are only reported in at most 15% of the accounts in Mackal's data base. Dr. Charles Paxton of the University of St Andrews has compiled a new sightings data base that will have the advantage of including post-1970's data, but I haven't had the opportunity to hear the lecture he gave on this in Scotland, and I believe we're still waiting on publication.

    All that being said, the Edna MacInnes sighting (as that turns out to be the one sid has been referring to) is documented on several Loch Ness websites, to varying degrees of detail, but enough that I feel comfortable commenting on it.

    It was not a single sighting by 5 witnesses, but 3 sightings in the same day. First Edna MacInnes and her boyfriend David Mackay saw an object ONE MILE AWAY across the Loch which they took to be the neck and hump of the LNM. They observed it in motion for 10 minutes. So we have a naked eye sighting at extreme distance -- it would be quite impossible to claim a head was seen. And it was moving at considerable speed, as they were unable to keep up with it by running.

    No aquatic animal ever swims at speed for any length of time, much less 10 minutes, with any parts continuously visible above water. None. It's a hydrodynamic law that it requires 5 times LESS energy to swim at the same speed fully underwater than it does on the surface (I talk about this near the end of the preceding article). So it is with great certainty we can say, Edna MacInnes and David Mackay were watching a boat. There's even a sketch of her sighting attributed to Edna online. The "hump" is drawn as a square, and the "neck" as a vertical pole immediately in front of it. That's a boat, pure and simple.

    Later the same day, a second couple reported seeing something similar. That would be the same boat, or one similar to it. And still later a 5th witness reported seeing a considerable wake on the Loch with no boat in sight. But this latter happens all the time. It's in the nature of Loch Ness that boat wakes can and do survive often long after the boats that created them are out of sight.

    So the only things seen on Loch Ness on 17 June 1993 were boats and boat wakes, no large animals of ANY kind. And none of this has anything to do with the identity of aquatic animals living in the Loch -- sorry about that.

  17. As to sid's other points, the amphibian theory can't be a "cop out" -- it predates the plesiosaur theory. A giant salamander identity was the original theory. Unless one reads this blog very selectively it should be hard to miss that! The Great Salamander is still a minority viewpoint among "believers" or this blog wouldn't need to exist.

    Lastly it was asked "If it is a large amphibian then why only in loch ness?" To my knowledge no one is making that claim. I haven't made that claim. It's possible of course. This could be a relict population of a species that's gone entirely extinct elsewhere since the end of the Ice Age. Or it could be an isolated population cut off from relatives in a few other places. Loch Morar certainly springs to mind as a likely home of the same species, or a closely related sub-species.

    But not every as-yet unidentified aquatic species in the world is going to turn out to be an amphibian! Nor do I believe we have identified every amphibian on the planet -- it seems a few significant ones are still waiting to be revealed in a few places, Loch Ness being one of them.

  18. A boat ? I dont think so . They all saw it roughly the same time and all convinced it was a creature. And i read they were 200 yards away not one mile. And the third lady said she had lived on loch ness for 20 years and the wake was unlike she had ever seen before. I think 5 diffrent people could tell a boat from a creature especially from 200 yards. And if u see the photos edna took you can clearly tell they are not that far away from the shore. A mile? The loch is only a mile wide and whatever it was was nowhere near the far side. Another cop out here.

    1. I didn't run across her photos but I'll keep an eye out. One version of the account mentioned them going for their camera though, but also said when they got back the object, which they'd been observing on the far side of the Loch was now on their side of the Loch only 20 some yards away I think. Well, how long were they gone to get that camera!?!?? AND the "object" on their side was only a big wake. I suppose if they were gone long enough, the wake from the boat they'd been watching earlier had had time to make it over to their side.

    2. I think the reports you have been reading have been confused .

  19. Edna also said it sank. So boats sink do they? How can 5 people mistake a boat for a creature? I have been to loch ness numerous times and have never mistaken a boat for a creature , yet you say 5 people did in one night? And dont 4get the last lady was very experienced on loch ness seeing boats everyday so 2 report something unusual she must of been convinced . But of course the giraffe neck ( what 2 of them said) does not fit in with your salamander so simply ignore it. How many boats have a giraffe neck ? And paul harrisons book is not expensive you can pick it up for a couple of quid. He has plenty of head and neck sightings 4 you but of course you will ignore this for your giant salamander.

    1. I didn't see the Harrison book for less than $130 USD at, but maybe I'll do better at Ebay.

      I am severely under-impressed with Edna's sighting, for reasons given in my reply below.

      There is no one theoretical animal to explain ALL of the sightings, because all the sightings don't agree with each other. So either there's more than one species (despite the odds being astronomically against this) OR.... the more likely alternative, some people have been mistaken. So we HAVE to go with the statistics, on the hopeful assumption more people have been right than have been wrong. The data doesn't clump around long-necked animals, no matter how much popular writers and journalists would like it to be so. The data is the data. Anomalous sightings that don't easily fit with the emerging hypothesis can and must be entertained, but not EVERY anomalous sighting, only the ones with some objective reason to believe aren't mistakes. Because we've already established (assumed) that there are some mistakes. So someone has to be wrong (we could of course all be wrong too) and we're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water just because, say, one person tomorrow says they saw a Nessie with three heads.

      The title of this blog IS The Loch Ness Giant Salamander. Why wouldn't I argue my own thesis on a blog designed to... argue my own thesis!

    2. 130 ? I paid a fiver for mine. Im sure it was on ebay for 15 quid the other day.

  20. All that was seen that day was a boat pure and simple he says - but a few days ago he didnt know anything about this sighting - lmao

    1. You will note Anon, or so I hope, that I kept asking sid which sighting he was talking about, and when he sent the info (dated 9/24 above although I didn't see it for a day or two) that it was the 1993 Edna MacInnes sighting, I looked up various accounts of that sighting available online, and THEN I formed an opinion and responded. That was the correct order to do it in, was it not? Perhaps you lyao too easily.

  21. Lmao because enough information was given as to which sighting. It was even on the television. I note you said an aquatic animal cant swim at the surface for ten minuites. Does that mean we can rule out the longest ever recorded sighting of Ian Cameron in the 60's which was also seen by six or seven people ?

    1. Okay Anon, now you have me giggling. Picture this. Girl walks up to the DJ at a party. Girl asks DJ, "Will you play a certain song for me?" DJ says, "Sure, if I have it. Which song did you want?" The girl replies, "You know, the one that goes La La La La La in the middle."

      Over 10,000 reported sightings, and I'm supposed to pull it out of thin air and know which one you're talking about because "it was even on television?" Lordy, lordy..

      Now sid kindly reposted to say it was the 1993 MacInnes sighting. We can work with that. We can google that. We can look it up in a book. And I don't have to slit my wrists midway through a Discovery Channel mockumentary waiting for the good part.

      Cameron in the 60's ain't too bad. About a half dozen Camerons reported sightings in the sixties. But the lengthy duration of observation must mean the June 1965 Holiday/Fraser/Cameron sighting that lasted a startling 60 minutes with the object in motion?

      The object was observed from a huge distance of 2.5 miles. They did have binoculars, but there's no way to deny the chances of miss-identification goes up with distance.

      But what they reported is quite different from the MacInnes sighting, and bears serious consideration. It was a single hump with a ridged top, that *intermittently submerged* as it sped up. That is very, very different from *continuously* holding up a neck AND a hump clear of the water while maintaining speed for even 10 minutes. What Cameron & co. watched is consistent with known animal behavior, most famously whales but also a wide variety of species in different orders. What MacInnes & co. reported isn't consistent with the swimming methods of any know aquatic animal ever. And this is no surprise, as the energy requirements would be staggering. Animals that budget their calories so poorly (here a 500% difference) are not favored by natural selection. Any animal behavior has to be cost effective in terms of survival, or the genes never make it to the next generation.

      So yes I believe the Cameron party was watching a live animal, whereas I don't think it even possible with the MacInnes sighting.

      Here the trouble (or shortcoming of the sighting) for you guys is that there was no long neck, or even a short one, in the Cameron sighting. But nothing in that means or proves the animal didn't have a long neck. Because if it had, it would have been below the surface anyway while the animal was speeding. Here there is no evidence one way or the other for the rest of the animal's morphology. But the one thing we know for sure is that if an apparent neck IS ever seen continuously above water during protracted high speed motion, then it's not an animal at all. It's a certainty that plesiosaurs never swam that way -- the vertical range of motion in their vertebrae shows they couldn't lift their necks in a swan-like manner, not even when floating stationary! But even if they'd had that capability, they'd have still pulled their heads under for any high speed racing.

    2. Well i wonder what Dinsdale saw then with his only sighting ( apart from the boat) . He said a 6ft head and neck was what he saw. Now i dont think he was a liar so he must have seen something resembling a neck.

    3. Exactly my point! Dinsdale, and others, have seen something resembling a neck, the operative word here being "resembling". Unless we're talking long-legged animals, the only part of any of them that could resemble a neck without being a neck is the tail.

  22. Steve in all due respect u shud know that stories and reports of sightings vary. The good thing about the tv one is u heard it from the mouth. I didnt hear it was a mile away from ednas mouth and didnt hear the neck was visible through the whole sighting . And the other witness with his son said it was going nice and slow. And the photo he drew was nothing like a boat , the neck was held higher. And the 3 sightings were roughly the same time. Now i have been to loch ness countless times with different people and never thought a boat was a creature, in fact even from 3 or 4 miles i havnt. Now surely 5 different people cant mistake a boat ?

    1. You're right about that sid, and whenever there's multiple sources for an account there are usually inconsistencies from writer to writer, and reporter to reporter -- through absolutely no fault of the witnesses. That's why it's always good to go straight to the original source and re-interview them, but that's hardly possible in most cases. I tip my hat to men like Dinsdale, who drove all around the Loch knocking on witnesses' doors!

      Did the Discovery Channel use the actual witnesses, or actors portraying them? I grant you anything from the horse's mouth is better than watered down accounts.

      The 1 mile distance was mentioned at a couple sites. Here at this link: the account and quotes seem lifted from the Discovery Channel documentary itself (it's attributed as the s the source multiple times). It's a fun read. Now here the second pair of witnesses say it moved away from the shore very FAST, but with neck up. That's still so biomechanically unlikely to me.

      From Adrian Shine's Loch Ness Project archives, here is a scan of Edna's sketch (signed I should add):

      I really don't know what to say about that. It looks for all the world like a WWII submarine surfacing, complete with conning tower and radio antenna! If that's what Edna, THE primary source in this case, thinks the beastie looks like then we're all in trouble. No one has a theoretical morphology for what Edna drew! We're all just way off then and must pack it in!

      I envy all your visits to Loch Ness. YOU never mistook a boat for a creature, but we can be sure other people have. That's certain if only because nearly everyone who viewed the Dinsdale film for nearly four decades after it was shot saw the object as an animal, including the first JPL technicians who did the original film analysis in the 60's. Now subsequent analyses by JPL again, Adrian Shine, and Dick Raynor prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the object crossing from right to left in the last half of the film IS a boat. Yes people, even good people, even experts, can mistake a boat for a beast.

  23. Who said it was a plesiosaur ?

    1. Sorry if I confused you with another Anonymous on that point! My bad -- but there's been more than one Anonymous across the threads.

      Probably not a bad idea if Anonymous posters sign comments with a nickname and keep it the same each time so I know which ones I'm replying too! :>

  24. Well i always thought dinsdales film was a boat. If the video had been taken by a unknown tourist most people would have thought the same. Dinsdale was a respected reasearcher so people believed his account of a blotched creature. And dont forget a video will always look further away . In the Edna case we have 5 different people with 3 different vantage points and one lady whos home overlooked the loch and said it was unlike any other boat wake she had seen in 20 years. I dont think it was a boat steve and yes it was Edna in the interview and she was 100 % convinced it was an animal. And going on the horseshoe sighting dont you thing the creatures estimations were a bit big ? And im quite sure if a big amphibian did this then we would have more sightings of this nature, but not one. Creatures do things for a reason so it wuld do it again. I think this was another made up story by another loch ness fibber.

  25. Why so resolute over the MacInnes sighting, but so readily doubtful of the MacLeod sighting? (If MacLeod was fibbing to get on the future Discovery Channel, we might say Edna beat him out.) Because of the multiple witnesses to the first? But it wasn't a single sighting by 5 people at the same time from different vantage points, it was three separate sightings with the first two sounding similar, and no actual object seen at all in the 3rd! A wake seen hours after the fact cannot be said to corroborate the first or second sightings. And that wake COULD have been made by a real animal, and yet have noting to do with the objects spotted earlier.

    MacLeod's size estimate is indeed on the huge side -- he was "appalled" to use his own term. Yet is should be accurate, as he was an experienced naturalist, and using graticulated binoculars, and had ten minutes view of the animal in one spot near other measurable features. It SHOULD be the most dependable size estimate anyone ever turned in. And yet the number seems too big. I know why, and that will be a featured point I'll be using in my next article.

    We have more than one sighting of the animal half-in, half out the water. But of course any time a land sighting has occurred, we know it had to be half-in half-out at at least two points, one coming and one going, even if that part of the visit wasn't observed. When it's fleeing the approach of a motorized vehicle it doesn't seem to pause though, then it hits the water and keeps going.

  26. I use the Edns sighting as an example. The point im making is one man could be lying but multiple sightings prooves that there was something there. The cameron sighting mentioned is another, with over 7 people observing. Lots of single sightings could be basic lies, im not saying they are of course but come on look st George Edwards. You mentioned Edna's drawing but to be fair it is hard drawing something you have seen like that and a drawing rarely looks like what you have actually seen. To me Ednas sighting looked more turtleish wiih neck sticking straight out. You could be right Steve with some sightings been a tail sticking out, it is possible but i find it hard if the sightings claim the creature moving forward head and neck at the front. Maybe we have a creature with a not so long head and neck and a tail that can look like a head and neck. I look forward to seeing your explanation for the horseshoe size sighting. I find it hard to believe a creature so large that stays out of water for 9 minuites would not do this more regular and would be seen more often. This is a one off sighting a large creature stuck on the horseshoe for 9 minuites. Im sure if this happened we would have a film or a photo by now.

  27. Ive always pondered the Macleod sighting. If its true then he had for me the best sighting ever of nessie or one of them. But i was always put off by the size estimate between 50 and 60 ft. Thats why i look forward to your next article as you say you know why. Hurry up Steve. jj

    1. :) The work I actually get paid for is keeping me too busy.

  28. And a famous sighting of head and neck moving forwards was from the man himself, Tim Dinsdale.

    1. Tim was unshakeable when it came to his plesiosaur-style interpretation. He comes slightly unglued in his own first book, jumping though hoops to explain the short-necked Alfed Cruickshank. He seemed irritated Cruickshank stuck to his guns, insisting it wasn't a long neck. Yet Cruickshank clearly had a much better and closer look than in either of Dinsdale's sightings.

    2. I meant "the short-necked sighting". I have no data on Mr. Cruickshank's personal neck length :>

  29. Hi Steve, what I have read of your thesis is one of the most plausible pieces that I have come across concerning the LNM phenomenon. Don't get me wrong, I am no LNM afficionado and I am unfamiliar with a number of your sources, however I am very familiar with scientific method. You use many testable hypotheses, traceable sources and apply current and accepted biological theory to test your ideas which all in all is a sound foundation for a continued study.

    In reference to the revamped Discovery channel report, I would always trust written testimony taken close to the time of a sighting over an interview testamonial recorded many years post sighting. It is amazing what one can convince themselves that they have seen given time to ruminate upon the idea. Secondly there is the unfortunate fact of unscrupulous editing by the media in the name of ratings. I personally have colleagues in the marine sciences that have had their work grossly miss represented by as venerable an institution as the BBC natural history unit let alone a ratings hungry cable channel such as Discovery.

    I am a firm believer in the role of eye witness testimony in the discovery of new species. However due to the lack of a more in depth knowledge of the natural sciences within the general public there are some circumstances that can lead to the misidentification of the most mundane and familiar of animals. A pertinant example is that of the Montauk monster. To the eye of one that is more familier with the anatomy of the disperate animal groups it is, at a glance, clear that the Montauk monster has many features that would classify it firstly as a mammal, secondly within the order carnivorae and thirdly as a a member of the procyonidae. To the untrained however this obviously decomposing carcase can become something new/ unusual and this is much more clearly documented in comparison to any of the LNM observations.

    And no I'm no ultra sceptic. Looking forward to your next post. Alex.

    1. Thanks Alex, I do take pains to follow scientific method and appreciate your taking note of it.

      Secondary sources are indeed always suspect for the reasons you noted, and human memory is subjective. "Grandpa told me that 70 years ago he saw..." compounds the problem, and amounts to no more than hearsay. We are so fortunate to have had researchers and writers such as Dinsdale and Witchell go to Loch Ness, track down witnesses, and document primary accounts from the actual sources. Also important is tracking down this documentation when it becomes lost or is going overlooked, work such as Watson does.

      Most newly identified species, when they do turn up, prove to be anything but new to the local human populations. The Gorilla is a classic case. There is a long tradition of an unusual animal in Loch Ness, not just of a mythological or supernatural creature but of an observed animal with natural traits. That this parallels the discovery of other cryptids that turned out to be real animals in the past makes the possibility of an unclassified species in Loch Ness certainly worthy of intense investigation.

  30. Im still waiting for your horseshoe size explanation steve?

    1. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. Which is to say I can make no promises part 3 of the article will get finished any day soon.

      Be that as it may I want to answer your question sid. It's a standing question in this whole land sighting business, that Torquil Macleod got or reported such a large measurement, and having been given the means and opportunity to be accurate about it as he watched the object at the waterline along Horseshoe Scree.

      So SPOILER ALERT. Herein is a detail from the forthcoming work in advance. Can't do graphics in the comments, so this will appear vastly simplified:

      Rotate this substitute text icon with the "neck" up, and Macleod saw something like this:


      He measured it carefully with his graticulated binoculars, and wrote to Constance Whyte that he'd seen an animal that "was of the order 40/60 feet in length".

      But what turns up in his accounts outside that letter goes more like this. He measured this:


      to be 20 to 30 feet (25 feet give or take) and then doubled the number for the total size estimate because he assumed half was below water and the animal was built like this:

      --( )--

      Well if you are looking at half (one end) of a plesiosaur-shaped object, and the visible portion is clearly about 25 feet, then the symmetry of the body plan dictates doubling the number to estimate the total size. From his account Macleod was clearly >assuming< half the body plus a long tail were attached to what he was measuring, but present invisible below the waterline.

      Macleod never once said he saw 40 to 50 feet of animal. He saw about 25 feet and doubled the number to fit the prevailing assumption about the morphology.

      My point is that this morphological assumption was wrong. Macleod was viewing almost the entire animal -- a short-necked, salamander shaped animal with only about 4 feet, the real head/neck region, hanging unseen below the water. Add that 4 feet to the visible portion measured, and now we're talking on the order of 29 feet overall, very much in line with all those other reported estimates of 20 to 30 feet.

      The long wriggling part on the Scree WAS the tail, and once again the absence of a discernible head, mouth, or eyes, and the complete lack of any demarcation between neck and skull, strongly supports this view.

      Macleod did better than he ever realized. He actually witnessed some 85% of the animal's total length, and out of water to boot!

      There's more to be said about this sighting, but the rest will go in the actual article.


  31. Thanks for answering steve. But i feel once again you change things to match your theory. I have dinsdales book and YES he did say 45 ft and that was the part visible even maybe 51ft. He doesnt mention 25 ft.

  32. Alrite lads !!! Hope yas dont mind me pokin me nose in lol i usually write in GB's!! SP I had a gud read of this otha day and i find the tail instead of neck an interestin theory !! I had a quick look on internet for amphibians with tails in air and found one!! It said it was the defensive move.!! As an experiment i downloaded pic to phone and showed it to the lads in work but i zoomed it up so only tail was showing. I showed it to 8 lads in work who 7 of the 8 said ' nessie' or head and neck!!!! When i zoomed it back out to show the complete animal they wer all suprised it was the tail!! If i cud upload pic on here i wud but soz im not very gud at things like that lol just a brickie im afraid haha neway it was just food for thought!!!!! Cheers lads....great blog by the way and ya know ya stuff SP !!!!

  33. Welcome Jake! Well we do have our fun over at GB's, but it's good to have you here too!

    7 out of 8! Thanks for adding an element of field research to my theory -- I'd say those were pretty good results! I'll have another google and see if I can't find the exact photo you did. A year ago I did the same search but only found one decent example (link was in a couple of comments scattered around here). That pic was during mating though - haha. That they do it defensively isn't a surprise, but I never ran across support for that before.

    That still frame going around right now, taken from the new Richard Collis video, may be another case. Although most folk are calling it a log, it also looks identical to salamander tails I've seen above water. Enlarge there's a faint line, as if we're actually seeing the dorsal view and it's slightly flattened, and that line continues where it bends over at the tip creating the "head" -- which I would say is just the tip of the tail curling down at the end. It may turn out to be a log, but if it's not a log then it's not a neck either :>


    1. Just came across your site. It's great. I have been fascinated with unknown animals ever since I read Gardner Soule's 2 books. Your theory is very intriguing. Have you factored a salamander's larval stage in to your theory?

    2. Hello and thanks Mngwa.

      The topic of reproduction will get the full-article treatment in the future as it's a big area. Suffice it to say for now that broods of hundreds of tiny "Nessie" tadpoles is most unlikely, and quite impractical in a place like Loch Ness. Certainly none have ever been reported as observed or captured. Viviparous reproduction, with the larval stages completed internally before birth, would have to be the ticket. A substantial number of amphibians have reproduce this way, the fully aquatic caecilians being one example. This however diminishes the chances that the Loch Ness Giant Salamander could be a European member of the Cryptobranchoidea. The latter reproduce by external fertilization, and would require rock overhangs or underwater caverns for protected nest sites, two things in rather shorty supply when it comes to Loch Ness. Then there's the debate over whether "Nessie" reproduces inside the Loch at all, or does so elsewhere and comes into the Loch later (I do not favor that). So, it's a broad topic to say the least!


  34. I got a coupleof good photos but cant upload them. Think i got one of the california herps website and the other by simply googling ' newts with tails in the air' !!! Lol one was classic head and necl photo with tail right up and curling so resembling a long neck with small head!! It said it was the defensive mode! Intrestin u said breeding SP cus over the years of my intrest in nessie ive come across periods of no sightings for months then one or two in same day or two or three within a couple of days! Maybe they come to the surface when breeding.....who knows??? P