RELIGIOUS educators who taught pupils that the existence of the Loch Ness monster disproves Darwin's theory of evolution have dropped the assertion from their new curriculum.

New editions of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) biology textbooks do not contain the controversial idea that Scotland's most famous mythological beast may have been a real living creature.

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The updated book is only available to creationist-taught pupils in Europe, but campaigners say America is likely to follow suit.

The Sunday Herald exclusively reported last June that private schools which follow a fundamentalist curriculum, including the ACE programme, were teaching the theory aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.

Our story attracted interest and comments from across the globe and was followed up by several newspapers. Richard Dawkins, the outspoken evolutionary biologist, posted a link to it on his blog.

The previous edition of one ACE textbook said: "Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the 'Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland?

"'Nessie' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur."

There was also a claim that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur. In the new editions, both claims have been removed. However, it still suggests that dinosaurs co-existed with humans.

It is estimated that around 2000 students in the UK are taught creationism, in private schools or through home schooling.

Jonny Scaramanga, from Bath, went through the ACE programme as a child but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism.

He said: "In the new editions they've replaced Nessie with talk of folk tales from China and Ireland - They still want to prove that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time."

The School of the Lion in Churcham, Gloucestershire, teaches the ACE curriculum.

A statement on its website said: "The Accelerated Christian Education textbooks used and appreciated by a number of Christian schools in the United Kingdom have recently been criticised for one small piece of information on one page in one book."

It added: "So what about the Loch Ness Monster? Well, you are going to have to find out about him somewhere else as the new ACE Science Textbook 1099 has left him out."

Arthur Roderick, founding director of Christian Education Europe, part of ACE, said: "As with any text books - curriculum is subject to revision and change."