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Is the Loch Ness Monster Dead?

A veteran custodian of Loch Ness monster sightings is concerned that Nessie has not been seen in well over a year, and may be gone.

A veteran custodian of Loch Ness monster sightings is concerned that Nessie has not been seen in well over a year, and may be gone, according to a news report. This is the first time in nearly 90 years that such a lengthy lag in sightings has occurred.

Gary Campbell, who lives in Inverness in the United Kingdom has been keeping records of Loch Ness monster sightings for the past 17 years and has put together a list of sightings and records that go back some 1,500 years, according to the BBC News.

"It's very upsetting news and we don't know where she's gone," BBC News quoted Campbell as saying. "The number of sightings has been reducing since the turn of the century but this is the first time in almost 90 years that Nessie wasn't seen at all." (Apparently three reports of possible Nessie sightings in 2013 were discredited after closer scrutiny, The Inverness Courier reported.)

Photos: Sea Monsters Real and Imagined

This is not the first time Nessie has been a no show; in fact, there were no direct reports of the beast until less than a century ago. The Loch Ness monster first achieved notoriety in 1933 after a story was published in a local newspaper describing not a monstrous head or hump but instead a splashing in the water that appeared to be caused "by two ducks fighting." A famous photograph showing a mysterious head and neck brought Nessie international fame, but was revealed to be hoax decades later. (Rumor or Reality: The 10 Creatures of Cryptozoology)

Some claim that the Loch Ness monster was first reported in A.D. 565, when St. Columba turned away a giant beast threatening a man in the Ness River, which flows into the lake. However it is only one of many Catholic Church legends about righteous saints vanquishing Satan in the form of serpents and dragons.

There are many myths lurking in the cold Scottish highlands, including legends of "water horses" - creatures associated with rivers and lakes that resemble normal horses, but are actually both magical and deadly: Should anyone try to mount a water horse, it will accept the rider, then gallop to a nearby lake or river, drown its rider, then eat his flesh, one myth goes. Though some of these legends and stories may have inspired some of the claims about the Loch Ness monster, Nessie is, of course, not a magical horse, but instead believed to be a very real, living and breathing aquatic creature resembling a long-necked dinosaur.

Skeptics would suggest there is likely no monster in the lake at all. But this news about the lack of sightings poses a big problem for those who believe in the creature's existence. The fact that no Nessie report has been registered in 18 months means that, even if it existed, it is likely no longer there.

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Though people often speak of Nessie as a solitary (often female) animal, if it exists there must be more than one in the lake - at least dozens if not hundreds. This changes the equation and deepens the mystery, because with so many of them allegedly living in the lake they should be seen much more often. It defies logic to believe a group of unknown monsters lives in the lake - which has many local residents and tens of thousands of monster-seeking tourists all around it - and not a single one surfaces to be seen. Think of it this way: If over a year went by without a single sighing of a giraffe, rhino or horse, the most logical - and the most tragic - explanation would be that they had all died out. Extinction is the only reason that large animals simply vanish like that.

This is especially true for the Nessie creatures, which are, after all, confined to a lake that is only a little over 20 miles long and about a mile wide (32 by 1.6 kilometers) for much of its length. Unlike birds (which can migrate hundreds or thousands of miles) or terrestrial animals (which may roam for a few hundred miles), the Nessie creatures are presumably locked in the lake. There are no underground waterway exits to the ocean or anywhere else. In short, there is nowhere else to go if they are not being seen in the lake.

But fear not, monster lovers and Inverness Tourism Board: If history is any indication, eventually there will be more sightings of Nessie, whether they exist or not. There are enough things in the lake that can be mistaken for a monster, including large fish, strange waves, and even the occasional hoax, to keep the sightings going and the tourist dollars coming.

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of "Skeptical Inquirer" science magazine and author of six books including "Lake Monster Mysteries: Investigating the World's Most Elusive Creatures." His Web site is www.BenjaminRadford.com.

Original article on Live Science.

Our 10 Favorite Monsters Gallery: The 10 Strangest Places on Earth Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The first purported photo of Nessie was published in The Daily Mail on April 21, 1934.

Monsters Ho!

We all enjoy a tall tale. Cultures with seafaring traditions are especially ripe in what seem like the tallest sea monster tales of all: hydra, kraken, sirens, scylla, leviathans, assorted serpents and mermaids. Usually the stories are never confirmed and usually baseless.

Then again, some of the tales are based on something, or so we are learning as marine scientists plumb the depths and discover some pretty weird creatures. The bottom line: There really are bizarre, unexpected, totally startling monsters found in the seas. And the very worst of these is the most unexpected.

Japanese Serpents

Sea monsters are truly global. This one from Japan serves as the villain for the classic maiden in distress, who awaits rescue by her hero. The poor monsters are almost always cast as the bad guys. And so they usually end hacked to pieces; fish food.

But is there any truth behind these sea serpent tales?

Improbable, But True

Maybe it's the oarfish. It looks too monstrous to be true. It can grow many meters long, has strikingly bright silver scales, scarlet fins and some ornate headgear that more than explains why some call it a roosterfish. If only it were a reptile, it'd be a true sea serpent.

Alas. It is a fish. A very weird and beautiful fish, but still a fish.

Largest Serpent of All

There are also other, newfound "sea serpents" our sea-going ancestors never imagined. This one was spotted by a satellite coiling off the south coast of Japan's Hokkaido island.

What do we know about it? 1) It's arguably one of the largest organisms on Earth, 2) It swallows ships, engulfs islands and generally does what it wants, and 3) We're darned lucky it's made of plankton.

Research into such massive blooms and the individual plankton cells that comprise them has revealed surprising cooperation among the microorganisms. They appear to operate like more than just floating individual cells. They live and die for the greater good, it seems. So they may be, in fact, a gigantic watery superorganism.

Now that's a cool monster for you: You can swim in it and never know you've been in the belly of a beast.

The Hokey Hybrids

Mermaids and mermen have always been the stuff of fantasy. Where did the fantasies come from? There are some standard answers to this question, which have always seemed rather inadequate. For instance ... (next slide, if you please) ...

Mer-Manatee?

The manatee has often been called the source of mermaid myths. It's a mammal, so it breathes air. But who would ever mistake a manatee for a sleek and beautiful mermaid?

Could it be love-starved sailors with poor eyesight? There was no shortage of these fellows in the days before optometrists.

Grandpa Fish

Another possibility is that merfolk were inspired by fish with roughly human-looking faces, like this fellow. Some fish can look humanoid. That would be enough to get superstitious sailors started.

The Kraken Strikes

How about giant, ship-destroying squid and octopi? These monsters were old hat even to the easily freaked-out. Most folks figured they were historical exaggerations.

That's until some very large and unusual squids started washing up or being hauled in by marine biologists in recent years. Colossal squid are meters long, pretty amazing beasts. Still, they have never been known to lift ships out of the water.

And since were on the topic of squids ...

Spider + Bat + Squid = Sea Monster

Do you remember when this one hit the headlines? It's not so gigantic, at four meters long, but it was observed 3,380 meters down in the Pacific Ocean near Oahu. It's pretty big to have gone unseen before its May 2001 discovery.

So what else is out there? It's pretty clear marine biologists have only just begun discovering what lives in the deep sea. The more time they spend searching, the more they will find. But none would dispute that the nastiest sea monster to ever rise out of the sea is ... (drum roll please) ...

Deadliest Sea Monster Ever

You might have guessed it: Human garbage. Yep. It's the ugliest, most alien-looking, fatal and pervasive monster in the seas. Garbage patches have been getting a lot of attention lately. These are areas on the seas where currents and winds tend to concentrate floating garbage.