November 28, 2012
Researcher Says Bigfoot DNA Analysis Reveals Human Hybrid … Seriously?
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A scientist in Texas is claiming to have sequenced the genome of Bigfoot, alias Sasquatch or Yeti.
Researcher Melba Ketchum led a team of scientists in a five-year DNA study purporting to confirm the existence of the hominin hybrid species commonly referred to as Bigfoot. The findings of this study are not yet published and are currently undergoing peer review.
The study findings suggest that the mythical creature known as Bigfoot is a human relative that emerged approximately 1,500 years ago as a hybrid cross between modern Homo sapiens and another as yet unknown primate species. The team was a multi-disciplinary group of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology. Dr. Ketchum confirms that the team has sequenced three complete Sasquatch nuclear genomes and has determined that the species is definitively a human hybrid.
“Our study has sequenced 20 whole mitochondrial genomes and utilized next generation sequencing to obtain 3 whole nuclear genomes from purported Sasquatch samples. The genome sequencing shows that Sasquatch mtDNA is identical to modern Homo sapiens, but Sasquatch nuDNA is a novel, unknown hominin related to Homo sapiens and other primate species. Our data indicate that the North American Sasquatch is a hybrid species, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens," said Ketchum.
So far the genetic testing has ruled out Neanderthals or Denisovans — both members of the genus Homo — as the unknown contributors to Sasquatch mtDNA or nuDNA.
“The male progenitor that contributed the unknown sequence to this hybrid is unique as its DNA is more distantly removed from humans than other recently discovered hominins like the Denisovan individual,” explains Ketchum.
“Sasquatch nuclear DNA is incredibly novel and not at all what we had expected. While it has human nuclear DNA within its genome, there are also distinctly non-human, non-archaic hominin, and non-ape sequences. We describe it as a mosaic of human and novel non-human sequence. Further study is needed and is ongoing to better characterize and understand Sasquatch nuclear DNA.”
Ketchum's professional experience includes 27 years of research in genetics and forensics. She is a veterinarian by training, who has been published as a participant in mapping the equine genome. She and her team began testing the supposed Sasquatch hair samples some five years ago.
In a truly bold move, Ketchum is calling on public officials and law enforcement officers to recognize the Bigfoot as an indigenous people.
“Genetically, the Sasquatch are a human hybrid with unambiguously modern human maternal ancestry. Government at all levels must recognize them as an indigenous people and immediately protect their human and Constitutional rights against those who would see in their physical and cultural differences a ℠license´ to hunt, trap, or kill them.”
Obviously, this report is cultivating quite a storm of controversy and derision.
Eric Berger, a science blogger for the Houston Chronicle, says, "This would be blockbuster news, if true. Emphasis on if true."
Berger continues to point out several problems with the research and news release, claiming the first and most important red flag is that the report is coming out ahead of any peer review or publication. As Berger correctly observes in his science blog, "scientists almost never pre-announce their research findings. That is, they don´t go public with big news until it has been vetted by peer reviewers and, at the very least, been accepted for publication. In this case Ketchum is stating a discovery as scientific fact before other scientists have studied her evidence. In effect she is using the mantle of science to confer credibility on her discovery, without actually deserving the credibility."
A second red flag, says Berger, is that nowhere in Ketchum's release does she discuss the source of this DNA sampling. "Wouldn´t you think there´d be a real live Sasquatch from which to get the DNA before you´d actually have the DNA?" asks Berger rhetorically.
Berger tracked down another skeptical blogger Robert Lindsay, who apparently found the source of the DNA: blueberry-bagel-eating Bigfeet in Michigan who apparently like to play jokes on the lady who feeds them.
Lindsay quotes an original draft of Ketchum's paper that also mentions angel DNA. Yup, you heard that right, ANGEL DNA. Just in time for Christmas, too. It is likely that Ketchum´s reference to “angel DNA” is simply meant to indicate DNA of a currently unknown origin. However, as Lindsay points out “no scientific journal on Earth is going to publish anything about ℠angel DNA.´”
Jennifer Welsh, of Business Insider, reveals even more problematic aspects of this study (it that´s even possible). Welsh says that the report was not released via the usual channels for academic research but rather was leaked on Facebook by Russian scientist Igor Burstev.
As is normal in the blogosphere, Welsh went looking for others talking about this study and found Steven Novella of NeuroLogica Blog. The self-professed skeptic Novella is openly derisive in his dismissal of the emergence of Bigfoot from a human-unknown primate mating.
"Let me offer a preliminary alternate hypothesis. The hair samples that contain only human mtDNA are from a human. The samples from which the nuDNA is isolated are also from humans but with some contaminants or some other animal source mixed in. That seems to be a more parsimonious interpretation. I would like to know more about the source of the DNA, but I guess that will have to wait for the full details to be published. The fact that the human DNA is modern human (hence the need for the alleged hybridization to have occurred so recently in the past) is most easily explained as the source simply being modern humans."
Novella doubts the ability of such a mating to breed true, saying it would probably be more like the mating of donkeys and horses. When a male donkey mates with a female horse, they have a mule offspring that is almost sterile thanks to chromosomal imbalances. He also cites the fact that as far as modern science understands, we can't even mate with our closest cousins, the Chimpanzees.
The biggest problem that Ketchum and her team face right now is publication. Because of this pre-release, the scientific community is already up in arms against her results before peer review and publication, making it nearly impossible that any reputable journal will touch this story with a 10-foot pole.
As Berger says, "It is not incumbent upon rational people to disprove the existence of Bigfoot. It is incumbent upon those making extraordinary claims to back them up with real evidence. I would be thrilled if we discovered another ape-like species in North America that walks around in the woods but is never photographed clearly, despite the ubiquity of cameras in the modern world."
As much ridicule as these claims are already receiving, it will probably be a money maker for Ketchum and her company DNA Diagnostics, Inc. Despite a glaring paucity of hard evidence, the Bigfoot legend has proven resilient in the popular mind, and many are cashing in on the craze, including two new cable channel shows. "Finding Bigfoot" on Animal Planet is sending monster hunters out looking for evidence of Sasquatch, while Spike TV, however, is hosting "The 10 Million Dollar Bounty," inciting monster hunters to compete for a huge prize to prove the existence of the elusive beast.