Sasquatch (“Bigfoot”) DNA study has the makings of a hoax intended to be found out

A press release was issued on Saturday 24th November. A team of scientists can verify that their 5-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” living in North America.

It feels like a PR campaign to me rather than any scientific study. It has all the makings of a hoax for publicity purposes where the inevitable debunking of the hoax is expected – but where criminal fraud cannot be proved.

The critical weakness lies in the purported samples from Bigfoot which have apparently been undergoing genetic study. The “scientists” are decoupled from the authenticity or the contamination/manipulation of the samples and are protected from charges of fraud. Of course nothing has been peer-reviewed or published yet. No data has been made available either. Where the samples came from and how they were “prepared” also remains to be seen. And the “study”  has a rather obvious commercial interest (The scientist leading the study, Dr. Melba Ketchum is the founder of DNA Diagnostics). I have a strong suspicion that the objective of the hoax is simply publicity and the main objectives of the hoax will be to keep the story going for as long as “genetically”  possible. The results and data leaked must therefore also be stage-managed to be difficult to debunk or disprove so that the assertions can live as long as possible.

On their website DNA Diagnostics has this:

Besides human testing, some of the species tested at DNA Diagnostics include but are not limited to horses, dogs, cats, cattle, deer and birds.

I am sure they would love to add Bigfoot to that list!

The press release at PRWeb is suitably excited and breathless.

Five-Year Genome Study At DNA Diagnostics Yields Evidence of Homo sapiens/Unknown Hominin Hybrid Species in North America

A team of scientists can verify that their 5-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” living in North America. Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species.

The study was conducted by a team of experts in genetics, forensics, imaging and pathology, led by Dr. Melba S. Ketchum of Nacogdoches, TX. In response to recent interest in the study, Dr. Ketchum can confirm that her team has sequenced 3 complete Sasquatch nuclear genomes and determined the species is 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.

Neurologicablog  is in the strongly skeptical camp:

After decades, however, what we lack is a physical specimen. No one has captured a bigfoot, killed one, found a dead body or skeleton. There is also no fossil evidence supporting the existence of such a creature. Researchers have found biological samples (such as hair or skin) that they claimed were from a bigfoot. The big news today is that a five-year study to sequence and analyze DNA from these samples has now concluded. I predict that the results will be touted by believers but highly criticized by skeptics.

The results have not yet been peer-reviewed or published, so there will definitely need to to be follow up when this occurs. The work was headed by Dr. Melba Ketchum, a geneticist working in Texas. Apparently she was scooped by a Russian collaborator, Igor Butsev, who released the results on his Facebook page. Ketchum was then forced to put out a press release confirming the findings. 

Steven Novella continues:

Ketchum concludes from this that the samples are from a hybrid between a human and an unknown primate occurring less than 15,000 years ago.

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.

Let us also consider the scenario that Ketchum is suggesting – in the very recent past (less than 15,000 years) an unknown primate bred with modern human females (mtDNA comes almost exclusively from the female line) producing the creature we now know as bigfoot. What, then, must the original unknown primate looked like? The result of this pairing then produced fertile offspring, enough to generate a new stable population of bigfeet. It is highly doubtful that the offspring of a creature that looks like bigfoot and a human would be fertile. They would almost certainly be as sterile as mules. Humans could not breed with our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, or any living ape. It is probable that we could produce fertile young with Neanderthals, but it gets doubtful the further back in our evolutionary history we go – and how far back would we have to go to reach a common ancestor with bigfoot?

The bottom line is this – human DNA plus some anomalies or unknowns does not equal an impossible human-ape hybrid. It equals human DNA plus some anomalies.

Yet Ketchum (somewhat prematurely) suggests:

“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.”

What can be recognized is the process of pseudoscience – anomaly hunting and then backfilling to the desired conclusion. What we don’t have is compelling evidence for a new species.

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2 Responses to “Sasquatch (“Bigfoot”) DNA study has the makings of a hoax intended to be found out”

  1. Sasquatch (“Bigfoot”) DNA study has the makings of a hoax … | The Forensics Study Site Says:

    […] Non-Science, Science, Scientific Fraud. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

  2. Erebus Priest Says:

    So, ketchum conclusion is that this supposed primate evolutionary line only dates to around 15 thousand years?
    That sounds very pseudo- scientific at best. And, how would this poorly proposed speck of propaganda be able to travel the entire globe in just 15 thousand years? By boat? Ridiculous.

    I with also note that ketchum’s company has a grade of (F) by the (Better Business Bureau) for 25 violations.

    She’s nothing but a con- artist.

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