Generalization or not, it’s fairly safe to say every town has its own urban legend. From the Loch Ness Monster, to the New Jersey Devil, to Rochester’s Lady in White, anywhere you go will have some eerie story of the unknown going bump in the night that will vary slightly depending on who you talk to.

Nearly 2 years ago, an unidentified creature washed up on the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Discovered by two local nurses taking an afternoon walk, this creature, known as “The Ugly One”, seen only once in the past 60 years before this particular sighting in May of 2010, is said to be a premonition of troubled times to come – however, it remains undetermined what exactly this creature is or where it originated.

Although it washed to surface on the Canadian side, Lake Ontario still hits pretty close to home. Many of us Rochesterians (myself included), enjoy spending a sunny summer day “beachside” on Lake Ontario, either on Charlotte or Durand Beach. As we’ve all become accustomed to, it’s very hit or miss whether we’ll actually be able to cool off in the lake or if we’ll be grounded to sand-side due to the day’s contamination index. Although this little tidbit would turn many off to ever taking a dip in Lake Ontario, we Rochester folk remain unfazed – we all know it’s not exactly the cleanest place to cool off, but when has that ever stopped us? Good enough to go, good enough for me!

The Ugly One received a lot of media attention in Canada, described by many as “a cross between a pig, a rabbit and a messed up dog.” We can blame it on the fact that I was born in the mid 80s, but I find this thing strikingly reminiscent of Bebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which brings me to my question – could Lake Ontario produce a mutant underwater creature?

According to the University of Utah, there are two ways DNA can become mutated:

“Mutations can be inherited by a parent having mutation in his or her DNA, or they can be acquired when environmental agents damage DNA, or when mistakes occur when a cell copies its DNA prior to cell division.”

I can’t answer whether Lake Ontario is capable of producing a mutant species, but I do know the contamination dilemma, due to high amounts of bacteria and industrial waste, has been an ongoing issue for the Great Lakes since the 1970s – allowing enough time for possible DNA changes to be acquired or inherited, which are both starting points for DNA mutation.

Of course, both known sightings of The Ugly One did occur only after the creature had been washed up from the water, which does allow for the possibility that just maybe, it’s simply a partially decomposed possum and nothing more. However, the legend goes that our own Nessie, The Ugly One, will appear right before a time of misfortune – Kodak, global warming, Occupy Wall Street, anyone? It’s anyone’s best guess. For now, The Ugly One of Lake Ontario remains a Rochester, as well as a nation-wide, natural mystery.