While Wright’s hypothesis is interesting, there are several problems with his theory, including that Pacific sleeper sharks, like oarfish, inhabit saltwater oceans. Furthermore, despite Wright’s suggestion that the monsters’ shape and colors usually match that of sleeper sharks, in fact most descriptions of the unknown creatures in Loch Ness bear little resemblance to sleeper sharks. Instead many eyewitnesses suggest that the monster resembles a long-extinct, long-necked dinosaur-like marine reptile called the plesiosaur.
There are more plausible Nessie doppelgangers known to dwell in Loch Ness, including large, fish-like lamprey, European eel, pike and sturgeon. Though the oarfish-as-Nessie theory is dubious, the oarfish-as-sea serpent theory is more plausible. For centuries sailors have told stories of seeing giant marine creatures and oarfish are certainly among the real-life monsters (along with basking sharks, the now-extinct Steller’s sea cow, and other animals) that may explain sea serpent sightings.
Perhaps the best-known monster of the deep is the giant squid. The animals were known to exist because dead ones occasionally wash up on beaches. The largest giant squid specimen, found in New Zealand, was estimated to be 65 feet long. Like the oarfish, because the elusive giant squid lives at great depths, no one had ever seen a living one in its environment until 2004, when two Japanese zoologists filmed a giant squid. The creature, about 26 feet long, was found nearly 3,000 feet below the surface.
As mysterious as the giant squid is, there is a still larger species of squid in the ocean. A 330-pound, 16-foot female colossal squid was caught in early April 2003 in the Ross Sea south of Wellington, New Zealand. It was dead when brought in and the remains are now in the New Zealand national museum. The body of the colossal squid is much bigger than its cousin the giant squid, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds when fully grown.
Strange-looking dead things wash up on beaches and fuel monster reports with regularity. A bizarre, fanged monster dubbed the “San Diego Demonoid” appeared on a California beach in February 2012, sparking national news — until it was identified as a decomposing opossum. Though the ocean surely holds many secrets, until hard evidence surfaces, truly unknown sea monsters will remain in the realm of fantasy and fiction.