Is there really a prehistoric – or even extraterrestrial – monster which has been trapped for centuries in the icy waters of Scotland’s Loch Ness?
Scientific studies have never found a monster – but now scientists think they may now know why the idea took hold in the first place.
In 1933, when George Spicer saw the monster, dinosaurs had been put on display in British museums – including long-necked marine reptiles.
Previous to 1800, the number of mysterious animals described as having ‘long necks’ was just 10% – whereas by the 1930s, it was 50%.
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The change was driven, researchers believe, by dinosaur mania, the Telegraph reports.
Dr Charles Paxton, a statistician at St Andrews, said: ‘The discovery of long-necked marine reptile fossils in the 19th century does appear to have had an influence on what people believe they have spotted in the water.
‘The problem is an interesting fusion of history and palaeontology which shows that statistics can be used to rigorously test all sorts of strange hypotheses, if the data is handled in the right way.’