Researchers from the University of St Andrews in the UK think they have found the reason why myths of long-necked creatures like the Loch Ness monster became popular in recent centuries.
Loch Ness Monster
Stories of a creature living in Scotland's Loch Ness go as far back as the sixth century, but the legend of Nessie drew increased interest in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Those who say they saw the creature claimed it stood 4 feet tall and had a long wavy neck thicker than an elephant's trunk.
Researchers of a new study now think they know why the myth of the elusive creature became popular in recent centuries. Study researcher Charles Paxton and colleagues found that after paleontologists' discovery of the first dinosaurs, which were placed on display at museums across Britain in the early 19th century, the number of reports about spindly-necked creatures rocketed.
Popularity Of Myth Influenced By Dinosaurs
Paxton and colleagues looked through nearly 1,700 used statistical analysis to find trends in sea monster reports between 1801 and 2015. They checked historical reports from books, newspaper accounts and first-hand testimonies that go back hundreds of years, and sightings.
Their study hints that the legends of long-necked sea monsters were influenced by dinosaurs. Fossils of the dinosaurs were displayed from around 1820 but before that, most reports of monsters described them as looking like large snakes.
Before 1800, only 10 percent of stories about sea creatures described animals with a long neck, but by the 1930s, the number of cases was close to 50 percent. The researchers found a peak of reports between 1930 and 1934.
"Witnesses only began to unequivocally compare sea serpents to prehistoric reptiles in the late nineteenth century, some fifty years after the suggestion was first made by naturalists," researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Earth Sciences History.
Loch Ness Monster Could Be Ancient Marine Reptile Plesiosaur
Some experts think the Loch Ness monster could be the ancient marine reptile plesiosaur, which could have survived the comet strike that wiped about the dinosaurs, and managed to make its way to the freshwater loch. The first complete plesiosaur was found in 1823.