| Gerald McSorley holds up the fossil, showing four perfectly preserved vertebrae, complete with spinal cord and blood vessels. (Reuters)
The fossilised remains of a long-necked, carnivorous sea reptile, which existed 150 million years ago, have been found in Loch Ness.
The discovery of four perfectly preserved vertebrae of a plesiosaur — the prehistoric creature most commonly associated with modern “Nessie” sightings — has led to claims that the fossil represents the first evidence of an original Loch Ness Monster. The fossil, set in grey limestone, complete with spinal chord and blood vessels, was found in shallow water by Gerald McSorley, 67, a retired scrap merchant from Stirling.
McSorley said: “I literally tripped over the fossil in the water. When I put my hands down to steady myself I saw something unusual and picked it up.
“Once I had cleaned off about an inch of green algae, and I could see the texture of the bone, it became clear I had an important fossil.”
Scientists at the National Museum in Scotland confirmed yesterday that the fossil — the first of its kind to be found at Loch Ness — proved that a 35 ft “monster” once lived in the area.
Lyall Anderson, a curator at the National Museum of Scotland, said: “Professional palaeontologists go out looking for things like this and usually find nothing. Mr McSorley is to be congratulated on a very good find.”
Many of the contemporary photographs, reconstructions and sightings of Nessie have been reminiscent of the long neck, broad body and giant paddles of the plesiosaur.
Anderson said: “The plesiosaur is the image people have of the Loch Ness Monster.”
The find has excited Nessie hunters, who believe that it supports their belief that a similar beast still lurks within the loch, even though the remains date from the Jurassic and Cretaceous period.