Friday, November 30, 2012

More on Sasquatch DNA Study

More information is coming out that was not clear in the press release itself. Over one hundred individual samples were processed and this allowed an excellent work up of the DNA. Earlier tests would certainly have been utterly misled by the human component in the mitochondrial DNA and would have in fact been naturally dismissed as contamination. The real achievement here is that we have now gotten past that little issue.

We have two reasonable candidates at least for the father. One is the reported Eurasian wild man who may also be a hybrid and we certainly have evidence supporting recent outright intermarriage that backs this up. The other is the fossil gigantopithecus who may well have been the progenitor of both the Sasquatch and the Eurasian wild man.

So far we have no indication of such progenitors in North America but the hybrid situation strongly suggests that the creature participated in the later crossing through the Bering Plain as the Ice Age ended. Recall that a Sasquatch was seen tramping North this summer deep in the barrens of Northern Quebec.

This also explains the disappearance of gigantopithecus. The human hybrid would have taken over the ecological niche as its population expanded ultimately absorbing the rest. The same may well have happened to the neanderthal branch of humanity and any number of other small groups.

Bigfoot DNA Tests Prove Hairy Creature Exists, Genetic Researcher Says

Posted: 11/28/2012 11:03 am EST Updated: 11/28/2012 11:35 am EST

Lee Speigel

Bigfoot is real. At least that's what veterinarian Melba S. Ketchum claims after a five-year study of more than 100 DNA samples that she believes comes from the elusive hairy beast.

Under Ketchum's direction at DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, Texas, a team of researchers has concluded that the creature may be a human relative that somehow developed around 15,000 years ago as a result of a hybrid cross between Homo sapiens with an unknown primate.

Ketchum's research has yet to stand the scrutiny of independent researchers. While many people have claimed to have seen the creature, its existence has never been confirmed, despite a plethora of photos and footprints[ 10,000 separate individual eye witness reports – arclein ]. The ongoing search is the subject of Animal Planet's "Finding Bigfoot" television series.

"Well, it came to me, I didn't go after it, that's for sure," Ketchum said of the evidence of Bigfoot's existence in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post. "I did not believe in these creatures. But my lab did a lot of animal testing, and we did species identification. We didn't have any hits on anything interesting until five years ago."

Ketchum's professional work includes nearly 30 years in genetics research and forensics. After her team attempted DNA sequencing of hair samples from an alleged Bigfoot encounter, they found some unusual things in the hair. But there wasn't enough DNA to conclusively verify what they were seeing.

DNA Diagnostics received more samples to investigate -- including hair, blood, saliva and urine, all reportedly from various Bigfoot sightings.

Ketchum's team consists of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology. The researcher said she believes that over the past five years, the team has successfully found three Sasquatch nuclear genomes -- an organism's hereditary code -- leading them to suggest that the animal is real and a human hybrid.

Ketchum's study showed that part of the DNA her team sequenced revealed an unknown primate species, she said, which suggests that Bigfoot is a real creature that resulted from this primate "crossing with female Homo sapiens."

"They're not any of the large apes -- they branch off as a separate lineage," Ketchum said. "My personal theory is that it probably branched off and evolved in parallel with the rest of the primate lineage."[ we also have an apparent parallel linage in the fossil record from Africa – arclein ]

The overall results of Ketchum's study will soon be revealed, she said, after a peer-reviewed journal is published. But skeptic Benjamin Radford is dubious about the outcome of this latest attempt to give credibility to the existence of Bigfoot.

"If the data are good and the science is sound, any reputable science journal would jump at the chance to be the first to publish this groundbreaking information," Radford, the deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, wrote in

Radford suggests that if the mitochondrial DNA is identical to Homo sapiens (modern humans), it could mean one of two things.

"The first, endorsed by Ketchum, is that Bigfoot ancestors had sex with women about 15,000 years ago and created a half-human hybrid species currently hiding across North America.

"There is, however, another, simpler interpretation of such results: The samples were contaminated. Whatever the sample originally was -- Bigfoot, bear, human or something else -- it's possible that the people who collected and handled the specimens accidentally introduced their DNA into the sample, which can easily occur with something as innocent as a spit, sneeze or cough," Radford wrote.[ that is merely the first reasonable assumption and it has kept other evidence out of the loop until now - arclein]

Not so, counters Ketchum.

"Early on, we started getting human results on the mitochondrial DNA -- that's maternally inherited and it can show where you're from," Ketchum said. "Different labs had already tested alleged Sasquatch samples, and all of these labs were getting human results, so they just threw it out.[ WHOOPS ]

"We split the samples with another forensic lab -- one worked on it manually while the other did it robotically, extracting the DNA -- and we ran several tests to confirm there was no contamination. And we ended up getting human sequences on many samples."

In, Radford pointed out that since "There is no reference sample of Bigfoot DNA to compare it with, by definition, there cannot be a conclusive match."

Ketchum's work isn't the only ongoing research project aimed at trying to confirm, through DNA, the existence of Bigfoot.

In the U.K., researchers from Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology are examining alleged Bigfoot remains to test for unusual DNA. Their results will be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

One theory about a possible explanation for Bigfoot or Sasquatch is that it could turn out to be a large primate called Gigantopithecus, 9-foot-tall apes that presumably went extinct around 100,000 years ago.

"My working hypothesis has always been that this is very likely Gigantopithecus extant -- that we have a species that's in the right place at the right time, the right size and some of the right characteristics in the form of Gigantopithecus in East Asia during the late Pleistocene [era] to have expanded into North America," said Jeff Meldrum, a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University.

"It's not a matter of belief or wishful thinking -- it's a matter of the preponderance of the evidence, be it eyewitness accounts, footprints or hair that defies identification or attribution to known species," Meldrum told HuffPost.

"We're waiting for the results in studies that are ongoing, looking at potential DNA evidence -- DNA sequences extracted from samples of hair and blood and tissue. All of these things are the basis and motivation for undertaking this kind of approach," he said.
Meldrum, author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, is skeptical of most Bigfoot videos that show up on YouTube.

"In this day and age of cellphones, smartphones and Handycams, why aren't there more pictures? And there are, but it's also a testament to the fact that most people are lousy photographers, even if they're composed long enough to snap a picture in that brief instant of an encounter with something strange and unusual like this."

If a peer review of Ketchum's findings eventually confirms Bigfoot's existence to the satisfaction of the scientific community, she's adamant about what the next step should be.

"I’d like to see them have the same protections as any other human as far as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of their own happiness, meaning that they be left alone and not put under a microscope, not hunted, not harassed, not chased through the woods -- leave them alone," she said. "They’ve existed for thousands of years this way and don’t need habitats set aside. They’ve lived under our noses all this time."

Yakima Herald gets statement from Dr. Melba Ketchum

The whole Sasquatch thing may be moving from the realm of the weird to the level of “truth is stranger than fiction.”

That will depend on how mainstream science responds to the impending release of a five-year DNA study apparently suggesting Sasquatch exists, and is not entirely human and not entirely non-human. It is, says the study’s author, a hybrid cross of the two.

The research was done by a team led by Melba Ketchum, a former veterinarian who moved into genetic research 27 years ago and runs DNA Diagnostics, Inc., based in Texas. Ketchum had hoped to see the results announced in a peer-reviewed scientific journal but they were “outed” last Friday by a note on the website of the Russia-based International Center of Hominology.

The center’s director, listed on the site as Dr. Igor Burtsev, wrote that Ketchum’s findings prove Sasquatch or Bigfoot “is human like us only different, a hybrid of a human with unknown species.”

Reached on telephone Monday, Ketchum said the 50-page manuscript containing the research and DNA findings is still in peer review at a scientific journal. As for whether the premature announcement would impact that, she said, “I hope not. So far we haven’t heard anything that says it’s going to stop it.” As for when the study might become public, she said, “in weeks instead of many months, that’s for sure.”

Ketchum said the study had sequenced “three complete Sasquatch nuclear genomes” and determined the species is a human hybrid — “the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens.”

Sasquatch nuclear DNA, Ketchum said, “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 (member of the genus Homo, including Homo sapiens), and non-ape sequences. We describe it as a mosaic of human and novel non-human sequence.”

What does that mean in non-scientific terms? David Paulides of North America Bigfoot Research, one of several private groups and individuals that financed the DNA study, said the research makes one thing clear: Sasquatch isn’t nonexistent and it isn’t an ape. It’s human. Or, at least, partly human.

“It falls in the realm of human,” Paulides said. “It has a human mother we can identify, that somehow evolved in the last 15,000 years, but in an unusual aspect of this we can’t track the father or find out who the father is. Based on millions of DNA strains that exist around the world, the father doesn’t exist.

“The only species we can identify is human. The male that procreated is unidentifiable.”

Then what is it?

“Some people out there have said we’ve used this word, ‘angel DNA.’ That is not true,” said Paulides, a former police officer in San Jose, Calif. “But there is some very unusual aspects to that male DNA that cannot be explained right now.”

Ketchum’s Texas lab didn’t do all of the testing. She said 13 labs — at universities, state-run forensive labs and private-sector facilities — were involved in the process, which included blind studies “and repeatability on most of it.” She said the labs tested 109 samples of all kinds — hair, tissue, blood and saliva.

“And all of them had the same results,” Paulides said. “If someone pooh-poohs it, they either haven’t read (the study) or they just refuse to believe it.”

Another Sasquatch DNA-research project is underway at Oxford University in England, but is entirely unrelated to the Ketchum study, said Thom Cantrall, a Sasquatch author who hosted an international Sasquatch symposium in the Tri-Cities last s summer.

“They’re not working in concert at all,” Cantrall said. “It’s entirely different, with entirely different samples. Some of the samples are from the same people.”

The release of Ketchum’s findings, Cantrall said, is “igniting a war” among different factions in the Bigfoot-believing community — those adamant that the creature is an ape or gorilla, and those who are convinced it’s more human than not.

The early announcement of Ketchum’s research “has the ape faction totally up in arms,” Cantrall said. “There’s so much personal psychology involved here — people who have staked their reputation on (Sasquatch) being ape that they can’t back away from that.”

Paulides said forensic testing of supposed Sasquatch hair and tissue samples through the years, including early DNA testing, has always come back as human. That invariably led to the presumption that the samples had been contaminated by the humans who had gathered them, he said — instead of what he said has been obvious for many years to some researchers, including himself: That the tests were correct all along. That Sasquatch is, if not human, at least a distant cousin.

Cantrall said he had “a tremendous fear” over what might happen to what he called “the Sasquatch population” over the coming months and years. If the creatures are indeed human, the government will seek to insure their safety, he said, noting that federal protections for the spotted owl will seem “only miniscule” in comparison.

“Really, the only protection (Sasquatch individuals) need is protection from being murdered,” he said. “Because there’s going to be that faction out there, too.”

Maybe. A September post on a hunting website referencing the two Sasquatch DNA studies ended with this little note: “PS: What gun do you think would be best for when I get my first Sasquatch tag?” - Yakima Herald

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