A LOCH Ness Monster theory which suggests the creature is a living dinosaur has been dealt a blow by scientists.
Many believe that Nessie is a plesiosaur, a long-necked marine reptile which sought refuge in Scotland's second-largest freshwater loch when most of the species died out 160 million years ago.
But Dr Leslie Noe, a palaeontologist at Cambridge University's Sedgwick Museum, discovered that the plesiosaur would have been unable to lift its head up, swan-like, out of the water.
Most scientists believe the creatures became extinct with the other dinosaurs, but some insist it is possible that after the last Ice Age, some plesiosaurs may have been stranded in the 23-mile-long loch, which was connected to the sea.
The plesiosaur has a prominent small head on a long neck and a round body, and is the most popular explanation for mythical Nessie.
Dr Noe, whose findings are reported in this month's New Scientist, told experts at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology in Canada, that plesiosaurs used their long necks to reach down and feed on soft-bodied animals living on the sea floor. By examining fossils of a plesiosaur, Muraenosaurus, and by calculating the articulation of the neck bones, Dr Noe concluded the neck was flexible and could move most easily when pointing down.
Dr Noe said: "The neck was a feeding tube, collecting soft-bodied prey. The osteology of the neck makes it certain the plesiosaur could not lift its head up, swan-like, out of the water."
However, the findings did not surprise George Edwards, one of the world's foremost authorities on the monster, who took a photograph of a unknown "creature" with a black hump he spotted on the loch in June 1986.
Mr Edwards, from Drumnadrochit, who runs Loch Ness cruises on his boat, the Nessie Hunter, said: "Most people don't support the dinosaur theory. The creature is some entirely new species. When you consider that every year in the open seas thousands of new species are discovered, this is the most likely explanation. But there's no doubt that a creature, one with a single hump, which most people report, does exist."
Monstrous tale is centuries old
THE earliest reference to Nessie was in the life story of St Columba who, in August 565, apparently fought off a monster from Loch Ness that was attacking a Pict.
The first modern sighting was on 2 May, 1933, when the Inverness Courier reported a couple seeing "an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface". The London newspapers sent reporters to Scotland and a circus offered a 20,000 reward for the capture of the monster.