Sasquatch Coffee

Update: Jim McClarin on Ketchum Sasquatch DNA Study

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 18th, 2013

Here is my commentary from before the release of Ketchum’s paper:

I’ve been asked to comment on the Dr. Melba Ketchum’s paper, “Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies,” which I have now read.

First, the paper is highly technical, a challenging read for the lay person. I am not qualified to assess the specific tests or procedures covered in the paper and I have already discussed some of the implications should the results be verified by others in an earlier post below based solely on Ketchum’s news release about the impending release of her paper.

I had low expectations about the quality of the research before seeing the paper due to comments and rumors beginning months ago, further lowered by the paper’s reported publication via a brand-new and rather hokey Web site instead of in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. However, the paper itself has done much to redeem my view of Ketchum’s scientific focus and dedication to methodology.

The paper is well written with just a couple typos I noticed. It also strikes me she was very thorough in explaining what steps were taken to insure quality results, everything from washing and rinsing samples and repeat tests to contracting seven independent laboratories to run tests on the samples without divulging their supposed source to see if they got concurring results.

The samples she tested were collected by field researchers who either stated or suspected they came from a Bigfoot/Sasquatch creature. They came from 14 states and two Canadian provinces and included hair, blood, saliva, and one piece of skin with hair attached. The hair and tissue were examined microscopically to ascertain whether any were from known wild or domestic animals or were clearly human. Some percentage were screened out on this basis, with 110 samples being accepted for DNA work, most of them hair.

A number of tests were done with sequence-specific primers, a quick and inexpensive way to check for the presence or absence of specific genes or gene sequences. Whole genome tests were run on two “next generation platforms,” very expensive machines that build virtual models by speedily identifying and comparing gene sequences in a sample, using only minute quantities of extracted DNA.

I already knew of Ketchum’s surprise finding that the mitochondrial DNA in all samples were modern human mtDNA. This was the basis of her contention that the source creatures were derived from at least one fully human female within their lineage and that all other females in the lineage of each source were either human or human hybrids. This she determined due to the fact that mtDNA is passed down from the mother in all cases; it is in fact the mitochondria in the original ovum that are replicated in all cell divisions. Only the nuclear DNA are intermingled at fertilization.

The nuclear DNA (nuDNA) in all samples, however, showed truly novel, non-human characteristics. Many human mtDNA gene sequences were found as well as sequences common in other primates, but significant portions could not be matched with any gene sequence in the Genbank® all-species database.

If all presumed Sasquatch creatures carry the human mtDNA it will be a strange case of a viable, fertile hybrid population, whose original male-side species that produced the first female hybrid has vanished. More likely, and Ketchum suggests as much, there are potential Sasquatch mtDNA creatures and hopefully pure Sasquatches running around who are rather more aloof and never made it into Ketchum’s samples.

A new feature I found in the paper was the pegging of mtDNA haplotypes found in the samples to regional and racial human populations, Mainly European and Middle Eastern but also including some African and Native American haplotypes.”

Ketchum includes a tree graph based on mtDNA haplotypes that at first impression appears to be a crazy, screwed up taxonomic tree. It’s not, but at least one debunker has seized on the tree as evidence Ketchum is a loon and not to be listened to. In reality, I suppose he didn’t know what he was looking at.

One criticism I would offer is that several images in the report needed explanatory captions. On the whole, any DNA specialist who bothers to read the paper should find sufficient material there to pique his/her interest. Indeed, Ketchum in a followup claims that several have already requested to re-test her samples based on her findings, a vital step in either validating via replication or contesting through failure to replicate. Ketchum herself intends to continue testing according to her final remarks in the paper.

~ Jim McClarin

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.


18 Responses to “Update: Jim McClarin on Ketchum Sasquatch DNA Study”

  1. lancemoody responds:

    In which journals can we read some of Jim McClarin’s other work in DNA sequencing?

    This is a fun game of pretend!

    I note how every story linked here tries to provide some lame support for the unsupportable Ketchum nonsense.

    As a skeptic, I am surprised that there aren’t more Bigfoot enthusiasts rising up against the pure imposture of recent weeks. I never realized just how low believers might go.

    I am quite sure now that, if Ketchum got herself up in a gorilla suit and paraded around in a video, there would be a link here from some other bigfoot buff discussing how her gait was unlike that of a human and how one could see the underlying muscle structure that confirms that we are looking at the real and holy bigfoot.

  2. Goodfoot responds:

    lancemoody:

    What a senseless heap of claptrap. Your straw men dishonor everything you touch.

  3. slappy responds:

    seems that jim mcclarin is the ONLY person so far that:

    – considers the paper “well written”
    – thinks it is “very thorough”
    – thinks that she has “insure(ed) quality results”

    another wishful thinker who can’t accept this studies failures

  4. chewbaccalacca responds:

    lancemoody: have you read Ketchum’s paper? I frankly haven’t, so I’m withholding judgment until I do, but your tone prompts me to wonder whether your response is based on an actual grasp of the material, or something else?

  5. lancemoody responds:

    I have not paid $30 to the perpetrators to read the paper.

    Frankly the circumstances of the publication and the silly background of the participants are more than enough to allow summary dismissal.

    But I HAVE listened to many folks, including folks with a background in the DNA work and they ALL say that this is nonsense.

  6. Mulder responds:

    @ lancemoody: seeing as how she is still in the process of getting all the information out, no one can say that “it’s all nonsense”. They can’t have even SEEN all the data when it’s not yet fully published, let alone have had time to conduct the necessary research to disprove her results.

    You need to listen to better folks if you’re falling for the intellectual snake-oil that is passing for Skepticism at the present time.

  7. Raiderpithicusblaci responds:

    I have not read the paper as of yet; do I have doubts? telepathic creatures? Blueberry bagles? A dubious looking film snippet? Yes, I have my doubts. Yet I will say what i have been saying since the story broke: Lets read the $$#@%^& report and then comment, lest we appear as dim-witted as these poor lost, mocking fools. What if Patterson and Gimlin had not weathered the storm of “skepticism” and had simply taken their film and faded away? The big guy is patient and so am I.

  8. Degnostik responds:

    The truth is Ketchum never ever said they were “telepathic creatures”, nor mentioned “angel DNA” or anything paranormal. As for the “Blueberry bagles”, there’s nothing paranormal about them, bagels exist and there’s a consensus in the scientific community about it. She has also said that she observed a “family of five”, but what’s wrong with that – compared to the claim of having their nDNA as proof? Many ridiculous thinking have been seen here and everywhere: people are dismissing the proof of Bigfoot because the person providing it claims to have seen them?

  9. Enano responds:

    The glut of smug comments by people who haven’t read the paper and wouldn’t know what to make of it if they did are growing really tired.

  10. Mulder responds:

    @Degnostik: Any scientist who makes a positive statement about Bigfoot, let alone claims witnessing them, automatically forfeits their scientific status and becomes a “believer”, hence not a reliable source of scientific opinion.

    That’s the way Skeptics work. Find ways to dismiss the evidence. Find ways to discredit anyone who disagrees with them. In Skepticland, Drs Meldrum, Schaller, Swindler, Sariamento (sp?), Howe, et al are utterly worthless as scientists because they are not Skeptics/Scofftics.

    It’s dirty debating, and it says far more about the utter lack of intellectual integrity on the part of Skeptics than it does about proponents.

  11. MR JOSHUA responds:

    Fairly sure all of you attacking “lancemoody” are not geneticists/primatologists. Todd Disotell, Jeff Meldrum, and countless others all find her study to be “dubious” at best. That is why we have respected “experts” in fields to help us formulate opinions. Face facts that she is a “fraud” who practices “bad science.” Please don’t compare PG to this study. Nobody can doubt the musculature moving under PG’s hair, but there is plenty of doubt about Melba Ketchum’s bad science and that Erickson project breathing “tarp” they claim to be a Sasquatch. You guys are being sucked in by a huge hoax. Don’t ask for a napkin to wipe the egg off your faces when this is all said an done. Ketchum is a fraud who should stick to curing “pet dander.”

  12. odingirl responds:

    I’m an open-minded skeptic. The bar is set pretty high for the burden of proof, but certainly no higher than for anything else this important. If it were anything else, such as a medical finding that determined treatment for a critically ill patient, would we be so willing to make excuses? While I don’t agree with being overly sarcastic about it, I do agree that we’re being gamed. Dr. Ketchum has attempted to ‘solve’ several inconvenient problems in the genetic peer review process by attempting to circumvent it. Researchers are not allowed to hand pick the peers allowed to assess their data, ‘top scientists’ or not. Self publication, self selection of the peers in ‘peer review’, excuses for not banking the data (or simply withholding it altogether) and presenting laughable videos are pretty obvious indicators that the data is at least questionable.

    As the negative reviews of the data continue to roll in (one scientist referred to the nuclear DNA data as a complete mess), it’s likely she’s simply going to play the ‘bias’ and ‘persecution’ cards and go on her merry way.

  13. Degnostik responds:

    You think that several PhDs, though not renown professors from classy universities, but still real PhDs from real institutions, together with highly experienced, trained and educated professionals from perfectly relevant labs and institutes, all earning money doing the same thing they did for the study, spent years on this, giving it a lot of thought, spent loads of someone’s money and countless work hours, and in the end put their names behind it, all in a brilliant scheme to what? Split 30 bucks? From people who have to download a paper on something highly controversial that few people believe exists, and to do it from a poorly designed website of a fresh opened, dubious magazine no one has heard of? If you truly think that, I’d advise you to be much more SKEPTICAL when a thought pops up in your heads.

    Richard Gibbs admitted he read it, and basically said that he would need the raw data to come to a safe conclusion, meaning (for every literate person) nothing in the paper itself is wrong. Another authority openly commented that he read only the abstract and the conclusion, and that it “didn’t make sense”. Well, sometimes it doesn’t, when you only read the abstract and the conclusion of a years long study on something novel. It has also been said that some of the data points to tech artifacts, though they miraculously appeared in several independent analyses, some of them blind. Contamination has also been mentioned, again and again, though the handling and the procedures, described to great lengths, and the credentials of the involved (many with contamination as key expertise) rule it out. Why? Because you believe (also believers, you see?) such procedures never really took place. Which brings us back to the first paragraph.

    After 5 days now, all we have are scientific comments about the design, the bagels, misspellings on a website (!?), the “makes no sense”, the “never seen a homology like that”…from people who never read it, or read across it as if it’s contagious. With all the antagonism, I’d say we would have been reading about the specific methodology flaws and have it trashed by now if it wasn’t… well, rock solid.

  14. chewbaccalacca responds:

    Respectfully, MrJoshua, you’re missing the point (at least as far as my questioning of lancemoody goes)(and personally, I wasn’t attacking, btw, just questioning). Ketchum’s research may or not may not be valid; there are dissenting opinions at this point. But it’s inappropriate–and irrational–to dismiss her (or anyone’s) work without actually studying it. That’s an all-too-common tactic amongst debunkers, and it’s not good science. If her work turns out to be faulty, so be it. But let more experts weigh in on that before we close the books on all this. Two or three experts offering their opinions does not a consensus make. Over and out.

  15. odingirl responds:

    The ‘scheme’ doesn’t belong to all of those folks with PhDs who allowed their name to be put on Ketchum’s paper (although one did state that he had done some analysis early on but had never ever seen the final data or paper, and another claims he didn’t actually do any work for the paper and is understandably a bit upset).

    If there is a ‘scheme’, it appears to belong somewhere in the Ketchum camp. Don’t confuse this issue with sensible economics; $30 a paper is not going to make anyone a squillionaire, but perhaps Dr. Ketchum is under the impression that this and her other related ventures (up to and including future fundraising for these ‘indigenous peoples’ and a line of Sasquatch-themed outdoor adventure clothing) might indeed pay off.

    However, I suspect that money isn’t Dr. Ketchum’s motivation. It’s rarely the motivation in research and more often it’s simply a matter of getting one’s name on the kind of research that puts you at the top of the heap and vindicates your efforts or reputation. Competition for credibility and ‘clout’, patents, book rights and yes, research funding opportunities, are often the grist for this mill.

    I’m not dismissing this study out-of-hand; it’s simply never been presented in a way that encourages people to take it seriously, and that’s an incredible shame.

  16. DWA responds:

    lancemoody:

    “As a skeptic, I am surprised that there aren’t more Bigfoot enthusiasts rising up against the pure imposture of recent weeks. I never realized just how low believers might go.”

    OK, you’re Catholic. (What a fun game of pretend!) Some excuse for a human you don’t even need to credit with time of day calls the Pope a jerk. What, do you now see every Catholic who doesn’t yell for the guy’s crucifixion as being In League With The Devil? Some of us pay little attention to sideshows, and see no need to “rise up” against silliness like this.

    (And it does nothing for the non-existent case against sasquatch to belittle people, anyway.)

    “I am quite sure now that, if Ketchum got herself up in a gorilla suit and paraded around in a video, there would be a link here from some other bigfoot buff discussing how her gait was unlike that of a human and how one could see the underlying muscle structure that confirms that we are looking at the real and holy bigfoot.”

    (Um, as I said above.)

    Not sure what this has to do with the Patterson-Gimlin film. (My prediction: nothing.) But keeping the conversation grounded in science is the best medicine here. (And no, Melba isn’t doing that very well.) To spend one’s time on crypto sites railing on against the woo-woo aspects of the topic simply highlights how little attention one is paying.

    Just sayin’.

  17. Alamo responds:

    Hey Lance,

    Methinks you haven’t been on here very long or actually read most of the posts if you really think that. Sure, there are a few “True Believers”, but there are quite a few of us “Thinkers” on here that don’t think too much of Ketchum or her work (just because we’re not making snide comments doesn’t mean we aren’t critically evaluating her). Do I believe in Bigfoot? No… Do I think he exists? Yes… It’s got nothing to do with belief and everything to do with analysis of the existing evidence and a decision that the preponderance is supportive rather than exclusionary.

  18. lancemoody responds:

    @Alamo,

    Fair enough.

    But I have been around a while. And I have seen debacle after debacle.

    And I don’t mind calling BS on BS.



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