Monster Talk: SASQUATCH: KETCHUM IF YOU CAN
Dr. Disotell is a Professor of Anthropology at New York University. His research specialties include primate evolution, genetics and mitochondrial DNA and analytical techniques of phylogenetic systematics.
He had previously appeared on the very first episode of Monster Talk to talk about cryptid (unknown animals) DNA and the testing of unknown samples. This time, he volunteered his thoughts about the information released regarding the extraordinary claims by Ketchum, a veterinarian.
The press release by Ketchum’s company, DNA Diagnostics, said:
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 fact that this extraordinary claim was not accompanied by a paper and supporting data was a giant red flag for Disotell. He notes that science by press release never turns out well especially when the information is provided by a for-profit company, as is Ketchum’s DNA Diagnostics.
Dr. Disotell goes on cite four other key areas that made him question the credibility of the entire endeavor.
1. Ketchum’s experience. Dr. Disotell said that she did not have any publications. This is actually incorrect. She does – at least four according to a Pub Med search. But she is not the lead author on any. Considering the gravity and complexity of this study, that does not bode well for her experience. However, she does claim there are other authors. No one has spoken up to say they are included. The tremendous secrecy for such a huge finding is very suspicious and suggests that true experts have not actually looked at it.
2. Primate evolution is a small area of expertise. A peer review process for such a paper would have virtually guaranteed that Dr. Disotell would have either been a reviewer or have known someone who was. Peer review does not have non-disclosure agreements (as it was rumored that this study had). So, word does get around. If a paper was submitted to a major peer review journal (since it’s such a blockbuster finding), it would have been at least inside knowledge. This increases the chances that the paper actually does not exist or it is in publication process with a less than reputable or a cryptozoological journal.
3. Just having modern human mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) is not enough to conclude hybridization. While many primate species have evidence of hybridization in their evolutionary lineage, that is not the only conclusion that can be made here. Contamination is still a possibility. An alternate explanation proposed in the past six months as rumored in Bigfootery circles (mostly forums) was that the DNA samples may have come from an isolated Native American tribe (may account for 15,000 years of variation). This genetic code might be just different enough from other modern humans to raise questions or be passed off as Bigfoot DNA.
4. The positing of an unknown primate existing 15,000 years ago is not plausible. 15,000 years ago, humans were “us”. This is a very short span of time, evolutionarily. There is no evidence that another primate that we have not discovered was living at the time in order to mate with human females. In addition, the mention of a “non-human sequence” is confusing. If it’s non-human or unknown, what does it most closely match? If it matches close to bear, bacteria, plants, whatever, that would give us a better idea about a reasonable interpretation. The use of “unknown” does not make sense in terms of science. Its use sparked the mention of so-called “angel” DNA further decreasing the capacity of onlookers to take this seriously.
Because all these arrows point to implausibility, Dr. Disotell is not optimistic about the claim being true.
But, the major hole in this entire story is that there’s no data and there’s no body. We can’t know what is being described, how it was tested and what details support the conclusion. We do not have the specimen that produced DNA. We are left in the dark. Also, it could be we’re being strung along with an elaborate story. Each day that goes by that a paper does not appear, but more rumors and excuses do, the odds increase that this claim about Sasquatch/Bigfoot is bogus or wrong.
What is nearly certain is that no matter what this paper says, if it comes out at all, it will not be the final word on Bigfoot’s existence.
Note: Comments are moderated. This is not a forum. Due to the controversial nature of this subject and since it sparks high emotion, please refrain from providing comments unless you have additional information, preferably referenced.
UPDATED: Breaking – Paper has been rejected?