By Daily Mail Reporter
Sea monsters like those described in ancient mariners' tales down the ages really could exist, experts claim.
But they are probably not Jurassic Park-style survivors from the dinosaur age.
Scientists are discussing the possibility of large undiscovered creatures in the sea at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) today.
Unlikely? Some scientists suggest that present-day 'monsters' might be plesiosaurs, long-necked marine reptiles that lived at the time of dinosaurs, or other survivors from the prehistoric world
One of the speakers, science writer and palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish, said: 'The huge number of "sea monster" sightings now on record can't all be explained away as mistakes, sightings of known animals or hoaxes.
'At least some of the better ones, some of them made by trained naturalists and such, probably are descriptions of encounters with real, unknown animals.
'And, because new large marine animals continue to be discovered - various new whale and shark species have been named in recent years - the idea that such species might await discovery is, at the very least, plausible.'
Some have suggested that present-day 'monsters' might be plesiosaurs, long-necked marine reptiles that lived at the time of dinosaurs, or other survivors from the prehistoric world.
Dr Naish thinks this is unlikely and points out that the 'prehistoric survivor paradigm' contradicts what is known about the fossil record.
'The idea that these sea monsters might be such things as living plesiosaurs is not a good explanation at all,' said Dr Naish, who is affiliated with the University of Portsmouth.
The meeting, entitled Cryptozoology: Science Or Pseudoscience, is being organised by Dr Charles Paxton from the University of St Andrews.
He argues it is wrong to assume that any large animal living in the oceans would necessarily have been discovered by now.
'If the criteria is solely bigness, then this is not the case,' he said.
'In 1995 a benthic ray, that lives on the ocean floor, was found that measured 3.42metres.
'There's a difference between animals that live on the sea bottom and those that come up to breathe air, but we have discovered a number of new species of whale.'
Highland horror: The Loch Ness Monster, known as Nessie to Scottish locals, could be one example of a survivor from the prehistoric world
But he agreed the chances of anyone catching a live plesiosaur are extremely slim.
'If there are prehistoric animals alive today it would imply that there's something very wrong with our understanding of the fossil record,' he said.
Eight large marine species have been discovered in the last 20 years.
In 1905, zoologists Edmond Meade-Waldo and Michael Nicoll encountered a 'sea serpent' off the coast of Brazil.
Sighting: A shadowy image which is allegedly Nessie swimming in Loch Ness
Cryptozoology literally means the 'study of hidden animals'. It refers to the search for mythical creatures whose existence has not been proven, such as the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman.
Dr Paxton said: 'Zoologists and cryptozoologists agree that the full inventory on large animals is not complete.
'What we now need to decide is whether cryptozoology data can be considered as valid scientific evidence when searching for new species.'