More: Is Nessie a Huge Salamander?

Posted by: Steve Plambeck on May 2nd, 2015

In reference to Nick’s post here: Is Nessie a Huge Salamander?

Nick’s full article over at Mysterious Universe is outstanding and definitely worth the read, as is the blog article by erika to which he links. The latter makes some important behavioral observations my own series on this subject has not gotten to yet, which are critical to the whole argument.

In reply to cryptokellie, the locals actually did identify and name the animal in question as “the great salamander”, or more simply just “the salamander” for at least two centuries before outsiders came in telling them it must be this or that. There is historical documentation this is how the locals identified the beast long before the press came along trying to sell people on plesiosaurs and long necks. (Long neck sightings are distinctly in the minority in witness reports from Loch Ness, and then usually at distances that would preclude telling a tail from a neck).

Aquatic caelcilians, contemporary legless salamanders, use viviparous reproduction and birth offspring about a third the size of adults. The marine Temnospondyls from the fossil record most likely used viviparous reproduction, and here we’re talking many species in the range of 15 to 25 feet long. I agree a larval stage wouldn’t go unnoticed in Loch Ness, but disagree a larval stage would be necessary in the first place.

See also:

Of Loch Ness, Salamanders, and Buoyancy
Stop the Science! It’s Bad for Business!
What Did Tim Dinsdale See at Loch Ness?
The Loch Ness Salamander – Latest
More on the Nessie Salamander
Giant Salamanders in Loch Ness?
Nessie: The Salamander Theory
A Scottish Salamander in the Loch?

#Nessie #LochNessMonster

About Steve Plambeck
Steven G. Plambeck is an amateur researcher, armchair paleoanthropologist, and by dint of a long standing interest in the phenomenon associated with Loch Ness may be called an armchair cryptozoologist as well without taking offense. He is the author of "The Loch Ness Giant Salamander" blogspot, and arguably the current leading proponent of the giant amphibian theory regarding the nature of that possible creature.

18 Responses to “More: Is Nessie a Huge Salamander?”

  1. cryptokellie responds:

    If the locals had identified the creatures all that time ago as the article suggests, then down through the ensuing decades, the animals would recognized as part of Loch Ness fauna and not be a mystery as local populations have a talent for utilizing fauna for food, fun or profit. To have been ignored for a couple of centuries stretches crediblity a bit. While it is possible that Nessiemanders could skip a larval stage, however unlikely, we’re still left with the problem that no Nessiemander fry have ever been captured or documented. Salamanders as rule produce lots of eggs or live young and just after breeding time, whenever that may be, there would hundreds if not thousands of Nessiemander fry swimming about. Keep in mind we’re not talking about one pair of animals. There has to be a breeding population and that population would be producing a large number of young individuals to survive. With all the predacious fish and eels, notorious predators of small fish and amphibians, that live in the Loch, these young would almost have to spend some time in and around the shallows and sheltered areas. They would almost certainly be known by the locals if they had. The fish populations both permanent and migratory are well known by the fisheries at Loch Ness, yet no examples of large salamanders or their young are documented. Also consider that a 20 foot or longer Nessimander would take years to attain such a size, they cannot be born or hatch at that size, so there would have to be examples of every life stage in the Loch all the time. Then, as I mentioned before, there is the dilemma that no Nessiemander remains have ever been found or documented. If a salamander, they would be vertebrates and a 20 foot or longer salamander would have considerable skeleton. No skeletal remains have ever been recognized even though the cold, peat stained waters of the Loch would be a good preservative.
    I actually do consider that a large and as yet unknown animal could survive in Loch Ness but it would have to be of a very strange nature to have gone unrecognized by the people that have lived and fished on the Loch for hundreds of years. It is possible for a legendary creature to exist just outside of recognition as the Hoan Kiem turtle of Vietnam proves but it is highly unlikely that Nessie is a salamander…as we know it.

  2. springheeledjack responds:

    My opinion on Nessie has definitely changed over the years. When I was a kid, I was definitely in the “plesiosaur” camp, because what kid wouldn’t go for a living dinosaur? Then as I got older and started reading Huevelmanns and a host of other books, I started to fall into the long necked mammal crowd because of water temperature, climate and a host of other details. And that’s where I sat for a long while.

    Until last summer. I had the chance to go to an aquarium and got to see polar bears, otters and sea lions in action. For a long time people have whined that if Nessie were a mammal it would be seen more often. My contention was that mammals didn’t have to stick their entire head out to breathe, and a creature came to the surface out in the middle of the loch, people would hardly ever see it. And I still stand by that–most people are not that observant, and even on Ness where people are constantly looking for the critter, there is plenty of water to hide in.

    However, it was in watching the behavior of other mammals in the aquarium (and yes, I am fully aware that this is not a real lift habitat, but there are some similariaties in behvaior), and what I saw was that mammals, while capable of being discreet really aren’t that concerned with hiding. I’ve seen sea lions off the coast of California and observed beaver and muskrat on their home turf, and seeing mammals in action made me realize that whatever Nessie is, the critter does not have to surface often, and if it was a mammal, it would be playing on the surface more often–which Nessie has rarely been seen to do.

    So if it’s not a mammal, then what? The reptile and a plesiosaur are the next obvious choice, but just as a mammal stays near the surface even though it can hold its breath for a large amount of time, the same is true of reptiles.

    So we’re either looking at a fish or an amphibian. With that long neck, aside from being an eel (which I don’t buy into also because of eel behavior), then we’re talking an amphibian of some sort. And to date, this is where I sit. Again, my ideas of what NEssie might be evolve as I learn more about existing creatures, comparing what I can know and testing it against accounts and sightings of Nessie–and other water cryptids.

    So, the bottom line is that I can be open minded to the giant long necked salamander theory–or some sort of amphibian that fits the profile. Or until I get information to lead me down a different track.

  3. cryptokellie responds:

    From the fossil record down to the present, there were and are no long-necked salamanders known, but I don’t feel that the long-necked Nessie reports are necessarily reliable and wouldn’t hold the lack of a long neck as a strike against some animal being a Nessie candidate. Interestingly, a few species of mammals other than Cetaceans and Sirenians can give birth under water. They include hippos and sea otters. The only real knock on Nessie being a mammalian form is the breathing issue. As an air-breather, a mammalian Nessie would be seen at the surface often enough to recognized. That Cetaceans and Sirenians are located in the open oceans by their need to surface and breath would make a mammalian Nessie regularly visible in a relatively narrow lake like Loch Ness…when compared to any ocean.

  4. Spookysr responds:

    I think everyone needs to get up to date with all of the Loch Ness research over the years and it’s ancient history. In 525 AD th creature attacked and killed a man in the water near the Ness Bridge over the river. It had teeth. Salamanders don’t have teeth. It caused massive trauma to victims mid-section (See incident of St Columba).

    It attacked a man on the north bank on the new road to Inverness in 1935. It was a highway work crew that returned from lunch after doing blasting on the new road and found Nessie on the shoreline. When they surrounded it it swung it’s massive tail to defend itself and knocked over a young sapling. An unlucky crew member also got hit and suffered massive trauma and was rushed to hospital. Nessie dove back into the Loch. Salamanders don’t have such tails.

    In the 1970’s the late Dr Robert Rines set up an underwater sonar camera trap next to two river outlets where fish come out into Urquhart Bay near the castle. He recorded 1 or 2 unmistakable images of two creatures who also attacked the camera rig. The images looked remarkably like Pliesosaurs chasing fish. They are not mammals. They were allegedly reptiles.

    There are many other eyewitness accounts that these creatures are NOT salamanders. There is plenty of room to hide at Loch Ness as the depth is about 1,000 feet and the length is over 20 miles. There were underwater caverns detected. Some of these caverns could lead to Beauly Firth which leads to the open ocean. There are places in Scotland that have underground caverns that stretch for miles underground.

    Obviously radiometrics are very flawed and Pliesosaurs did not all die out millions of years ago as paleontologists think. There are MANY living fossils all over the Earth. I am intrigued by the Elasmosaur-like creatures in Congo and Cameroon. The creatures in Lake Okanagan BC (Zuegladon Whales?). The cretures in Lake Champlain Vermont USA. The Predator X-type creatures in two 30-mile apart connected Siberian Lake. And many more in Austrailia and other places. Obviously scientists are wrong but are too arrogant to admit academic failure.

  5. springheeledjack responds:

    That’s the great thing about Ness and other water cryptids. The sightings are varied and many and we get just enough details to drive a person to drink.

    There are too many head / neck reports for me to rule out the long necked critter–it is seen often enough and in enough detail I do not doubt the observers. The one that does it for me is the water bailiff who watched one surface and saw its head swiveling around as a boat came up the loch looking for the source of sound and then went down. I don’t believe the guy was crazy or making things up (and I categorically refuse any notions that people come up with these sightings when they’re drunk, because alcohol is hardly a hallucinogen–never understood that one anyway).

    Really, the only long necked critters we know of are giraffes, llamas, and a variety of birds . . . and dinosaurs.

    Ironically, a couple of years back evidence of plesiosaurs were discovered in cold weather climates, so it would be theoretically possible to have a dino in Ness–that was one of the reasons I finally came over to the mammal camp because I didn’t think it was possible for a reptile to survive in Ness’s frigid water climate (unless we get into the warm blooded dino theory).

    I don’t have problems with the fact that no skeletons have been found–the loch is deep enough and we don’t know enough about our particular critter that it’s not a stretch. As for the locals not knowing more about it–heck, the 10 diameter sting ray that was only finally caught in the Asian rivers in 2010 shows just how long things can go undetected. Granted, the locals were aware of something in the water, but a huge sting ray wasn’t on everyone’s radar.

    I do agree that though, yes we have this impressive fossil record, it’s hardly complete or thorough and there’s plenty of room for strange critters we haven’t encountered. If Mama Nature has proved anything it’s that she’s damn creative and there are some really crazy animals that fill specific niches and have adapted to some really unique circumstances.

    That’s the end game: we can attribute all of these possibilities jumping across animal types, but in the end, until we get one, we don’t know really what we’re up against. And that’s also the fun in this game: applying what we know to what has been accounted, and then trying to piece together what these critters could be. The funny thing is that to date Nessie displays characteristics of several animal types, but doesn’t seem to fit any one completely.

  6. cryptokellie responds:

    An update on the Loch Ness evidence adds up to very little when you come right down to it. Tales from 525 AD and the St. Columba narrative are anecdotal at best. BTW – most salamanders do have teeth and many larger salamanders have very thick tails which they can use as a springboard to lunge forward. I have been following the Loch Ness story since the early 1960’s and one by one almost all the famous evidence and photographs have been held to hoaxes or had some kind of doubt thrown upon them;

    The Gray Photo…who knows what that is.

    The Wilson Photos…probably hoaxed.

    The Macnab and Stuart Photos…shown to be or admitted hoaxes.

    The Dinsdale Film…controversially inconclusive.

    The Raynor Film…shown to be birds.

    O’Connor photo…fake.

    Doc Shields…fakes.

    Frank Searle…fakes.

    Rines flipper photo…retouched to appear flipper-like.

    Rines Body photo…photo enhanced.

    Rines Gargoyle head photo…an image of the Loch bottom.

    All sonar images collected remain inconclusive.

    Edwards 2012 photo…hoax.

    I’ll stop there. Why can’t some people accept the fact that Loch Ness is a glacial lake created by the retreat of the last glaciation activity and is no more than 10,000 years old. Plesiosaurs (the correct spelling) disappear from the fossil record 65,000,000 years ago.

    I still live in hopes that there is an unknown animal plying the waters of Loch Ness but there are subjects you can disregard; plesiosaurs and gargantuan salamanders are two of them.

  7. Insanity responds:


    Most salamanders do in fact have teeth in both the upper and lower jaw and they are well adapted for grasping prey. Tiger salamanders are an example. They have what are called pedicellate teeth, which are unique among modern amphibians. These teeth can flex a bit at the base, typically inwards towards the throat. When prey is swallowed, the teeth flex in that direction to encourage that motion, but if the prey were to slip out, the teeth are rigid.

    I am not sure what you meant by salamanders do not have this type of tail. The tails of most salamanders are laterally flatten and undulate side to side while swimming, just as an alligator’s tail does. Some species do lash their tails back in forth as defense in response to danger, such as the blue-spotted salamander.

    Regarding caves and tunnels, the geology around Loch Ness is such that these are unlikely, at least those stretching for miles. Caves are formed from limestone being dissolved by groundwater, and most of the rock in the area are metamorphic granites. Given that Loch Ness is about 15 meters above sea level, any connecting passage from the loch to the ocean would be essentially a drain for the loch, in addition to River Ness. The larger it is to allow a large creature, the higher the flow rate. The flow rate into the loch from surrounding rivers would have to meet or exceed this outflow in order to maintain its water level. A little research may determine what the flow rates of the rivers are, and determine what the maximum outflow could be possible. The outflow rate may be such that swimming the approximately 12 km distance, along the shortest route from the loch to the ocean, underwater and against a current, in complete darkness and likely few if any air pockets, is something that probably only a fish could accomplish.

    There may be some small recesses or depressions along the sides of Loch Ness, but extensive passageways, particularly those connecting to the ocean, are unlikely.

  8. sasquatch responds:

    Nice post Insanity. I lean towards the salamander theory. 2 stronger reasons are; their ability to withstand the colder waters, that a reptile wouldn’t like, and the fact that salamanders could just hang out on the bottom in the mud and peat debris undetected by sonar…Also, an amphibian lends itself to land sightings occasionally.

  9. cryptokellie responds:

    Please remember that salamanders are vertebrates and the larger ones have robust skeletons. A 20 foot plus long giant salamander would have a big bony skeleton and remains would have been found at some point at the Loch over the decades of all the surveillance, research and study that went on there and none have been found. Also as a breeding population, attaining a 20 foot plus size would take years and there would many Nessiemanders of all size stages in the Loch all the time. None have been seen or found…ever.
    If the large eel population can be seen, charted and photographed and filmed in the Loch, which they have been, how can gargantuan Nessiemanders remain hidden all this time.

  10. Spookysr responds:

    I stand corrected regarding Salamander teeth. However, credible eyewitness reports indicate Nessie has protruding front teeth that appear to be all canines. This must be for fish capture. I do not think Salamanders share this dentition.

    Dr. Rines photos were not viewed as specious nor incredulous by mainstream academia. The late Dr. Rines was highly respected by the scientific community. He was assisted by the very credible late Dr. Roy Mackal. Photo enhancement typically used by NASA and ESA do not take away from the photo. Because astrophysics photos are enhanced does that make the photo less credible?

    The photo that embarrassed him was the tree stump photo. He should have chose his words much more carefully as the anti-living fossil propagandists are just waiting to take Dr. RInes out of context. That photo was not the creatures face. Dr. Rines knew that but he chose the wrong words to caption it.

    The body, neck, and flipper shots were unmistakable. You have to understand his crew (and him) were THERE (present) at Urquhart Bay when these two behemoths entered the bay and attacked the rig. They watched some submerged creature almost capsizing the camera buoy. Later when they viewed what was doing it they saw what we said. It needed to be enhanced to see it even clearer. All enhancing does is compress the pixels and removes some noise artifacts. Actually the beasties were larger in size than the photos.

    The Nessie tail has a rhombic tip (oer Dr. Rines photo analysis). This helps it propel itself in water and acts as a rudder. It can be used as a defense mechanism much like how Crocodiles can swat you with their tails. I’m not sure Salamaders have a rhombus on their tails. The people who have seen Nessie out of the water generally agree that the tail is special. Obviously the highway work crew member was swatted by this rhombus as if he was a fly. It did fell a young sapling as it swung it’s tail all around in self-defense.

    The late Tim Dinsdale should never be categorized with the likes of Searles. He was a highly credible Loch Ness researcher. His eyewitness reports and photos were amazing. His son I think is still alive and has been doing diving at Loch Ness. He is the one who encountered Nessie 1 on 1 in Urquhart Bay underwater and scared the bejesus out of him. The water was too dark to make out features but something huge and dark passed right in front of him. He is the one that will confirm the 1935 story of the highway crew incident.

    The matter of the caverns: They were detected all around the northeastern end of the Loch. The idea is that they are irregular and have hills and valleys hence water level would not be an issue. That means Nessie may have to crawl on dry rocks for a few feet to Beauly Firth (which is NOT the sea – only connected to the sea past Inverness).

    The existence of long limestone caverns in Scotland can be found at SMOO CAVES up in Durness, I think the webmaster at LNIB doesn’t know what he is talking about regarding no limestone at Loch Ness. I admit the walls may be Granite or even Trap Rock but I believe limestone is present under Inverness.

    I admit I can’t spell Plesiosaur. (LOL)

  11. Spookysr responds:

    Also supporting reptile theory: Nessie has been generally seen by eyewitnesses displaying it’s back like an upturned boat. That is “sunning” method. It is getting warmth through it’s circulatory system passing through it’s flexible back. Not seeing it’s head and neck is not unusual. Many reptiles and amphibians just stick their nostrils above the surface and that can’t be seen with naked eye unless you were very close. Frogs and turtles do this. While it’s sunning itself it’s long neck and head are probably stalking fish waiting to pass in front of it then it strikes it like a snake. At Vermont USA the same type of creature was seen using it’s head and neck to stun fish by slapping the water from above water. Nessie is not seen so much during the day as it has been suggested that it is a nocturnal hunter. During the day there is too much boating traffic through the Caledonian Canal system.

    I suggest a device like this to capture good video of Nessie at night:

  12. cryptokellie responds:

    I agree that stalwart men like T. Dinsdale and R. Rines should never be compared with the likes F. Searles or Doc Shields and I wasn’t making any such connection between them. My point is that their photo and film evidence is inconclusive. I was 21 years old in 1972 and been following Loch Ness news for over tens years when the Rines photos were announced and published. They were a world shaking event. Sadly, the actual photos show muddy water and were enhanced to look more like what would be expected in the public eye. This makes the images inconclusive and unacceptable as real evidence.

  13. springheeledjack responds:

    First, the fossil record is no where near complete, so that doesn’t hold water for ruling out a plesiosaur. However, I do have other issues along those lines. It’s the age old idea of applying what people have seen against what it could be. People spot something with a long neck and really the only critter that seems to fit the model is the plesiosaur, so that’s what people assume it is. And I beg to differ–the accounts where people see a creature with a long neck have enough weight to lead me to believe that whatever creature is being seen, it’s got a long neck. And if it’s not a plesiosaur or something descended there from, then . . . it’s something else with a similar structure. Heuvelmanns theorized a long neck seal was out and about which also fits the bill.

    And as for the loch only being 10,000 years old, sure. However, it’s hardly landlocked. In 10,000 years, it’s statistically possible for something to have gotten into the loch during that time.

    I don’t have all the answers either, and we don’t have “proof” or we wouldn’t even be discussing this, but again, that’s the game of investigation. You go with what information you can get your hands on–in this case mostly eye witness testimony and some less than stellar footage or photos (though there is supposedly a 1938 footage –called the Taylor film–that shows the critter in action and it has since been shoveled into a vault or someone’s archives–last I heard a Maurice Burton had it, but he refused to ever show anyone the footage–which could mean it’s bunk, but who knows). It’s from that secondary evidence that I have been theorizing and testing against known animals and possibilities.

    That is the fun of cryptozoology.

  14. cryptokellie responds:

    In fact that is exactly when things got into the Loch as it didn’t exist before then. That “something” to have entered the Loch from the sea would not have been a giant salamander as salamanders cannot tolerate sea water and none live in it. The Loch region has several newts and salamander species dwelling there and the locals are well aquianted with them. After several centuries of people living and making their homes and livelihood around the Loch, wouldn’t they have become aware of the giant Nessiemander and it’s life cycles? The Caladonian Canal was opened in 1855 and has been renovated several times since. That date would negate all historical monster sightings before then and would and would have the monster only being in the Loch for 38 years up until 1933…

    Taylor’s Salamander (Abystoma taylori) lives in brackish water contained in the deep crater lake Laguna Alchichica in Mexico. It is neotenous and fully aquatic for life.

    I have seen a still or two from the 1938 Taylor film, published by M. Burton and it is very grainy and shows an object in the water at the middle distance. What that might be is open to interpretation, especially having not seen the film.

    Why Burton chose not to make the film public is one of the greater mysteries about Loch Ness evidence.

  15. cryptokellie responds:

    Typing error – it is 78 years from 1855 to 1933. Not long enough for something using the Canal to evolve into anything. The River Ness is also of glacial origin and something could have entered the Loch via there but only after the last glaciation event of 10 thousand years ago. Interestingly the St. Columba monster encounter was in the River Ness, not Loch Ness. Seals of several types are regularly seen in the river which is very shallow at points.

  16. Insanity responds:


    I am not familiar with the LNIB, however, the geology of Scotland does varies a lot for a region of its size, and the fact that there is limestone at the Smoo Cave does not mean Inverness has the same geology. To my knowledge, what limestone there is around Loch Ness comprises of scarce and thin layers.

  17. Spookysr responds:

    Again I must reiterate that the Rines photos were NOT re-touched. They were only enhanced with NASA/ESA software that is used for de-pixellating and removing noise from astrophysical photos. No one was trying to defraud the public with changing muddy photos to match public perception. The resulting image does not match any extant marine creature, not even the fictional long-neck seal. It stands to reason that paleontologists are just wrong regarding paleo-chronology.

    They use of the flawed invention of Dr. Willard Libby (i.e. radiometrics) to date the time period these alleged creatures lived up to. Dr. Libby said his invention is just too unreliable to say something is millions of years old. He claimed that 4-5ky (?) was more likely and could be verified with Dendrochronology. But for some reason mainstream academia swears by their plausibly flawed chronological figures.

    Now as to Loch Ness caverns/caves: they do not have to be limestone in nature. They could be sandstone or more likely for Loch Ness “fissure caves”. I admit the Edwards Deep cave is specious at best. He doesn’t even say where it is. I was referring to a more scientific approach I read about at the northeast corner of the Loch. Sonar readings indicated caverns in the walls. I can’t remember where I read it. It appears that these particular cryptids seem to like caverns as can be seen by Mokele-Mnebe in Congo/Cameroon area. The same seems to be true in British Columbia and Siberia.

    BTW has anyone tried the new Google Street view function of Loch Ness? It is really cool. However, Nessie would be frightened by the Google boat (which is visible in every shot). But the look of the water is as if you were actually there. Keep looking around Urquhart Bay. If you’re going to find Nessie it will probably be there at night. They will be fishing for fish coming out of the two rivers that dump into the bay. BTW – Bay’s bottom topography is NOT flat, it is hilly. So Edwards Deep is NOT in the bay.

  18. Spookysr responds:

    Consider this: The creatures have been seen by two boys in a rowboat at night as BABIES. The boys had a torch (flashlight for Yanks). They were small like the palm of your hand and had the revealing features of tiny Plesiosaurs. It stands to reason momma must have been close by. The boys did not try to touch them. Thank goodness! (Source: One of Dinsdale’s books).

    In 525 CE the creature was near the River Ness attacking a swimming man lethally and about to kill a 2nd swimming man that St. Colomba told to enter the water to rescue a small drifting boat. Why was she so pissed? Maybe victim 1 was messing with her babies. So how could such a large creature enter the Loch via the river or the canal? Maybe as babies?

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