Loch Ness monster could really be lost Baltic sturgeon Associated Press, 1/2/94 LONDON-For

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Loch Ness monster could really be lost Baltic sturgeon Associated Press, 1/2/94 LONDON--Forget the leftover dinosaur theory. The legendary Loch Ness monster may be nothing more than a lovelorn Baltic sturgeon who blundered into the Scottish lake in search of a mate. That's the conclusion of "Nessie" hunger Adrian Shine and a new study that says the lake doesn't hold enough fish to keep a full-fledged monster alive. A comprehensive review of the ecology of Loch Ness, soon to be published in the scientific journal The Scottish Naturalist, discounts the possibility that Nessie is a reptile of Jurassic Park proportions. The last plesiosaur, or water dinosaurs, were fossilized 65 million years ago when Loch Ness was still a giant ice cube. Scientists also say the monster could not be an amphibian or a mammal. About the only possibility that leaves is a large fish--the original theory when Nessie was first sighted in 1868. "This is my favorite of the current theories," said Shine, head of the Loch Ness Project at Drumnadrochit on the shores of the murky lake in the Scottish Highlands. Thirteen research papers to be published in The Scottish Naturalist conclude the total fish population of Loch Ness is only about 20 or 30 tons, making it quite barren. Following the rule of thumb that a predator can weigh no more than about 10 percent of the available food, that would mean the monster could weigh up to 3 tons, or 6,000 pounds. But scientists believe that there would have to be about 10 monsters to for a "viable population" -- a group large enough to continue reproducing through the generations. So, they assume, each monster would weigh no more than about 600 pounds -- the size of a large sturgeon. Sturgeons have long snouts that could be mistaken for Nessie's neck and have a prominent dorsal fin. They live in cold northern waters such as the Baltic Sea and occasionally venture into British seas. Sturgeons move from saltwater to fresh water to mate and spawn. "It isn't impossible to imagine one of them blundering up the River Ness in search of a mate and failing to find one," Shine told The Times of London. "This is the sort of thing that could have started the tradition. But it would be rather nice to think I am wrong." Shine believes that most of the 4,000 reported sightings of the humped Loch Ness Monster are actually the wake of boats. However, there have been several grainy photographs produced over the years purporting to show a long-necked or serpent-like creature, or indistinguishable shadows and bumps that could be almost anything. The 44-year-old Shine has been Nessie-hunting for 20 years. He led a $1.6 million expedition to try to find her in 1987, using sophisticated equipment mounted on a fleet of boats. But the expedition produced only three tiny inconclusive sonar bleeps.

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