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The good burghers of Loch Ness and its environs will doubtless be delighted to learn that the legendary monster on which the region's entire economy is based was probably nothing more than a circus elephant taking a dip.

That's according to palaeontologist Neil Clark of Glasgow University, who has spent the last two years working towards this stunning conclusion. The explanation? Well, Clark told the BBC that sightings of Nessie "could have been circus elephants, as fairs visiting Inverness would often stop on the banks of Loch Ness to give the animals a rest.

"It's quite possible that the people around Loch Ness saw some of these animals. When their elephants were allowed to swim in the loch, only the trunk and two humps could be seen - the first hump being the top of the head and the second being the back of the animal."

Clark did, however, concede that his elephant theory "would not explain some of the later sightings", adding: "I do believe there is something alive in Loch Ness." This is presumably to save him from a lynching by representatives of the Nessie Souvenir and Memorabilia Manufacturers' and Retailers' Association.

His findings are published this month in the Open University Geological Society journal. ®

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