Friday, July 4, 2014

More Bigfoot DNA Sequenced

I covered the Melba Ketchum saga here on Augoeides back when it was taking place, including the founding of her fake academic journal and independent testing of her "bigfoot DNA sample" that revealed it to be possum rather than primate. One point, though, made by her DeNovo Scientific Journal web site is fairly accurate - mainstream science has an uncomfortable relationship with anything considered paranormal, from psychic abilities to unknown species to alternative medicine.

While it's true that most of the time when such things are investigated by scientists they turn out to have normal explanations, that's kind of the point. We are talking about paranormal phenomena, after all, and I'm a big fan of this sort of research whether or not it turns up an unusual or unexpected explanation. That's why I was happy to see the Ouija board study from last week, and also was quite pleased by today's story.

A research team from the University of Oxford led by chairman and professor of human genetics Bryan Sykes put out a call for bigfoot hair samples. They received 57, both from museums and individuals. After determining that 36 of the samples were suitable for testing, they were able to extract recovered DNA from 30 of them. They did not find any anomalous primate DNA, but the results were quite interesting nonetheless.

After weeding out plant matter and glass fibers, they selected 36 for genetic analysis. Over half came from the US; the rest are from Russian and South Asia. The team methodically cleaned 2-4 centimeter shaft samples, and then amplified the ribosomal mitochondrial DNA 12S fragment -- a snippet commonly used for species identification. Some failed to yield DNA sequences, and the team ended up with 30 recovered sequences, which they compared with GenBank data. They got a 100 percent match for each one.

Most samples attributed to hairy beast-men were identified as known species living in their normal geographical range: 10 were brown or black bears, four came from some canine, and the rest were raccoons, horses, cows, sheep, deer, a goat-like serow, and a porcupine. One Texan sample came back as human (very unlikely Neanderthal). The sample that supposedly came from the Sumatran orang pendek (Indonesian for “short person”) turned out to be Malaysian tapir.

But there’s more! Two Himalayan yeti samples -- one from Ladakh, India, and the other from Bhutan -- came from a mystery bear whose closest genetic affinity is to an ancient polar bear, based on DNA from the jawbone of a Paleolithic Ursus maritimus who lived 40,000 years ago. The golden-brown Ladakh sample was collected by a hunter four decades ago when he thought he shot an abnormally aggressive brown bear. The reddish-brown Bhutan sample came from what was known to be a migyhur (or yeti) nest in a bamboo forest 3,500 meters in the air.

The researchers suspect these hairs came from unrecognized bear species, color variants of polar bears, or maybe a polar bear x brown bear hybrid (pizzlies!), though they can’t know for sure without genomic sequence data.

After reading Reinhold Messner's My Quest for the Yeti, I came away convinced that the yeti is not an ape but a species of bear. Instead of struggling with the Nepalese language, Messner got good translators and went so far as to show locals pictures of Himalayan brown bears, which they immediately identified as yetis. This research only confirms that conclusion. It could be, though, that the bear in question is an unknown subspecies, which would be an important finding in and of itself.

In light of this, it also does not surprise me that ten of the thirty samples also came from bears. When you place Bigfoot sightings on a map of North America, you can quickly see that the mystery primate's range is nearly identical to that of black and brown bears. Bears with severe mange look freaking terrifying. Just imagine running into one of those standing on its hind legs in the middle of a dark forest. You could most likely be forgiven for believing you had encountered a real life monster.

In the past, much of this sort of research wasn't done because of cost, but with cheaper genetic testing available much of it is now becoming possible. The same is true of research into altered states of consciousness, as brainwave monitoring equipment and other tools that were once extremely expensive is moving into the consumer sphere. And sometimes, as with the bear DNA from the Himalayas, when you start looking into the paranormal what you discover is important, even though the finding itself might be unexpected.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: