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796

COMMENT

THE

POPULATION

DENSITY

OF MONSTERS IN LOCH

NESS1

It is well known that there are monsters Loch Ness should give an annual yield of
in Loch Ness. Their most characteristic ratherless than 1 kg ha-1 yr-1. This estifeaturesare that they are rarelyseen and mate can be refinedby calculationsbased
never caught, but there are records of on Ryder's (1964, 1965) morphoedaphic
sightingsextendingback many centuries. index (total dissolved solids/meandepth).
The fact that they are rarely seen sug- Again, we could not find data fromLoch
gests that the population is small. It is Ness and have used a value for total disknown from direct observation that the solved solids forthe northernpart of Loch
animals themselves are large and it fol- Lomond (Darling and Boyd 1969). The
lows from this that the population must estimate of mean depth was taken from
be small. It can be demonstratedquite Hutchinson (1957). By using this inforeasily fromtrophic-dynamic
considerations mation in Ryder's (1964) equation we
that many large animals could not exist in calculate that Loch Ness should give an
Loch Ness; but a few could. It has been average fish yield of 0.55 kg ha-1 yr-1.
suggested from time to time that as the The ratio of biomass to production of a
monstersare never caught it must there- fish producing system will range from
fore follow that they do not exist. This is about 1 to 5, so that the standing stock
of fish in Loch Ness should lie in the
both irresponsibleand illogical.
Many accounts have been written of range from0.55 to 2.75 kg ha-1. The conLoch Ness and its monsters(e.g. Holiday centrationof monstersshould be similar.
The area of Loch Ness is about 5,700 ha.
1968) but very few quantitativeobservations have been made. We know nothing The total mass of monstersin the loch is
of theirdistribution.The population struc- thereforein the range 3,135 to 15,675 kg.
ture of the monster communityis also In Fig. 1 we show the numberof monsters
unknown to us. As they are rarely seen the loch could supportrelative to individand never caught (characteristicfeatures) ual size. The minimum average size is
it is particularlydifficultto study their taken arbitrarily as 100 kg; anything
population dynamics. However, it is our smaller is not suitably monstrous. The
purpose to show that it is possible to esti- numberof monstersin the loch could vary
mate the number of monsters that can from 1 to 156 depending on the standing
stock and average size. The largest numexist in Loch Ness.
The production rate of oceanic orga- ber would occur in the situation where
nismsis size dependent,but in ecologically high standing stock and small average
stable areas the standingstock is constant monstersize coincide; however,we believe
at all sizes (Sheldon et al. 1972). It is not that such a situation is unlikely. The
unreasonable to assume that similar rela- smallest number must be more than two
tionshipsexist in large bodies of freshwa- if the species is to be maintained. Monter. If this is so then the standing stock sters have been seen in the loch for hunof monsters,taken over logarithmicsize dreds of years so that there must be a
intervals,should be similarto that of other breeding population. The alternativepossibility,a single monsterof great age, is
organisms(e.g. fish or plankton).
We have not been able to find any unlikely,and inter alia is not in keeping
information
on the standingstocksof Loch with the wide range of size estimatesreNess, but an estimate of the fish stock ported in the literature.A viable populacan be made if the probable yield is tion could be quite small but probably
known. A deep oligotrophiclake such as would not be less than 10. This constraint
is indicated by the verticalline in Fig. 1.
1 BedfordInstituteof OceanographyContribu- All the combinationsof individualmonster
weight and population shown by Fig. 1
tion.

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

797

COMMENT

are theoreticallypossible, but we would
only consider those to the right of the
vertical line to be realistic.
We will now attemptto show that some
of the individualmonsterweight and population combinations are more probable
than others. Much of our reasoning is
based on observationalevidence.
The trophicposition of the monstersis
probably that of terminalpredatorsfeeding on fish (Holiday 1968). The growth
efficiencyof many aquatic predators is
around 10%. If the monstersare similarly
efficientand if a major part of the fish
production is used by them, then their
production must be of the order of 300
kg yr-1or more. The average number of
deaths per year is determinedin a stable
population by the ratio of production to
mean size. On this basis monstersweighing 100 kg would have to die at a minimum rate of about 3 per year. Larger
monsterswould die less frequently.
Two lines of evidence support the view
that monstersdo not die frequentlyand
must thereforebe large. Firstly,corpses
are never found. Secondly, a relatively
large number of juveniles must exist if
adult mortalityis high,but althoughsmall
monstershave been seen fromtimeto time
they are not common. It seems therefore
that Loch Ness must contain a small number of large monsters. These could weigh
as much as 1,500 kg with a population of
10-20 individuals. A 1,500-kg monster
could be about 8 m long, a size that agrees
well with observationaldata.
We are aware that in these calculations
we have not taken migratoryfishinto consideration. These will increase the effective standing stock of the loch and this
could result in there being either more
or larger monstersthan we have shown.
However, Sheldon et al. (1972) suggest
that standing stocks are not absolutely
constant. There is probablysome decrease
at the higher trophic levels which could
result in there being either fewer or
smaller monsters than we have shown.
These two factorsare antipathetic,and althoughwe do not know the relative mag-

m

CD

10 000

50

00

000

.I

100
1

5

10

Total

50

10 0

Populqtion

FIG. 1. The probable numberof monstersin
Loch Ness. Upper curve: at a standingstockof
2.75 kg ha-'; lower curve: at a standingstockof
0.55 kg ha--. The verticalline indicatesthe suggestedminimumpopulationsize.

nitudes,they are both likely to be of the
order of a factorof two. They will tend
to cancel each other and it is not improbable thereforethat the population density
that we have described for the monsters
in Loch Ness is near to the true value.
It is not unknownfor sightingsof monsters,both in Loch Ness and elsewhere,to
go unrecorded(Heuvelmans 1968; Holiday
1968). Fear of ridicule is the main reason
why many observers do not make their
observationsknown to science. But it is
the skeptics who are at fault. Monster
observersshould be encouraged. The occurrence of monstersis quite reasonable
and is by no means fantastic.
We would like to thank Kate Kranck
for drawingour attentionto this problem,
because until she mentioned it we were
unaware that monsterswere a problem.
R. W. SHELDON
S. R. KERR2
Fisheries Research Board of Canada,
Marine Ecology Laboratory,
Bedford Instituteof Oceanography,
Dartmouth,Nova Scotia.
2
Present address: Ministryof Natural Resources,ResearchBranch,Maple, Ontario.

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798

COMMENT
REFERENCES

F. F., AND J. M. BOYD. 1969. The
highlandsand islands. Collins. 405 p.
HEUVELMANS, B. 1968. In the wake of the seaserpents. RupertHart-Davis. 645 p.
HOLIDAY, F. W. 1968. The greatorm of Loch
Ness. Faber and Faber. 223 p.
HuTrCHINSON,G. E.
1957. A treatise on limDARLING,

nology, v. 1. Wiley. 1015 p.
RYDER, R. A. 1964. Chemical characteristicsof

Ontario lakes, with referenceto a method
forestimating
fishproduction. OntarioDep.
Lands Forests. Sect. Rep. (Fish.) 48. 75 p.
1965. A method for estimatingthe
potentialfish productionof north-temperate
lakes. Trans.Amer.Fish. Soc. 94: 214-218.
SHELDON, R. W., A. PRAKASH,AND W. H. SurCLIFFE, JR. 1972. The size distributionof
particlesin the ocean. Limnol. Oceanogr.
17: 327-340.

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