Geneticists Weigh In On Ketchum Sasquatch DNA Study

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 15th, 2013

From the SciGuy blog:

I shared this with a few geneticists I know to get their measure of the research.

First up is Richard Gibbs, one of the key scientists behind the Human Genome Project and director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine:

“As a scientist I would consider anything.The currency of scientific advance is keeping your skepticism at bay. You have to approach these things incredibly agnostically. As I read the paper I asked, is the evidence here compelling? I don’t know. Is there clear evidence of fraud? That’s not apparent. It’s an intriguing hypothesis. One would need to view more sequencing information before supporting the conclusions.”

Specifically, Gibbs said, it’s standard protocol to upload the raw sequencing data which can then be analyzed to determine whether this is a new species, or simply an amalgam of existing species. Only a text file, which is unhelpful, accompanies the paper.

Next is the view from Leonid Kruglyak, a Princeton University geneticist:

“To state the obvious, no data or analyses are presented that in any way support the claim that their samples come from a new primate or human-primate hybrid. Instead, analyses either come back as 100% human, or fail in ways that suggest technical artifacts. They make the bizarre claim that the failures might be caused by novel, nonstandard structure of the DNA (“Electron micrographs of the DNA revealed unusual double strand – single strand – double strand transitions which may have contributed to the failure to amplify during PCR.”) which would mean this DNA was different from DNA in all other known species. There’s also the strange statement they couldn’t deposit sequences in GenBank because it’s a new/unknown taxon — GenBank does that no problem.”

Here’s the view from Todd Disotell, a human origins expert at New York University who has previously tested dozens of DNA samples from people claiming to have Bigfoot DNA.

“It’s clearly a fake Vanity Journal with lots of ShutterStock pictures, misspellings and it was only created on 2/4/13. I’ve only read the abstract and conclusion and neither makes any sense.”

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.

9 Responses to “Geneticists Weigh In On Ketchum Sasquatch DNA Study”

  1. sschaper responds:

    I have no clue as to the ethics of the investigators, so I make no claims.

    But I do suspect contamination. A hybrid between different genera seems awfully unlikely to me. Human mitochondria with non-human primate DNA sounds like something that could not happen outside of the laboratory.

  2. muircertach responds:

    this is how science works

  3. Goodfoot responds:

    This hurts, but I tend to agree. I don’t know what’s going on, but there seems to be high hinkyness going on.

    Really, really sad. It’s as if the whole affair was created to embarrass them that believe, or them that KNOW. Really a dark, dark time.

    But I have it on pretty good authority that the sun will rise tomorrow!

  4. odingirl responds:

    That certainly didn’t take long.

    I will admit that in spite of having a pretty good idea how this was going to pan out, it’s still disappointing and frustrating because (1) no progress has been made and (2) truly reputable scientists won’t touch this kind of work in the future due to the Ketchum ‘funk’ she has brought to the genetic study of cryptids. The uphill battle to establish credibility has just become a 15% grade. Meanwhile, someone in Texas is collecting $30 a pop for birdcage liners.

    That will buy a lot of blueberry bagels, though.

  5. Frank Oliveri via Facebook responds:

    The basics are this. The DNA comes back positive for a known species, man, ape, dog etc….OR it comes back “UNKNOWN” Regardless how much testing they do. By this very definition they will NEVER find definitive proof of Bigfoot until such time as they have an actual body to compare it too.

    Just another episode of the Disclosure Project, they will keep asking for more time and money with NOTHING NEW TO SHOW !!!!

  6. stevedlocke responds:

    The usual bunk. Whats with all these fraudsters these days? Don’t they have better things to do with time and money?

  7. Jim McClarin responds:

    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.

  8. Jim McClarin responds:

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

    Regarding the alleged impending release of the DNA studies on supposed Bigfoot/Sasquatch studies by Dr. Melba Ketchum, a forensic DNA specialist, I am nonplussed by the site on which her paper is reportedly going to be released. However, let’s consider the reported results: human mtDNA (genes found in the mitochondria of the cell) and exotic nuDNA (genes found in he nucleus of the cell), in other words a hybrid creature. This implies maternity by a human woman and paternity at some point by a fully exotic creature.

    There have been reports of both human males and human females having sexual experiences with Sasquatch. It’s possible that viable offspring have issued from such activity and that there is a hybrid population of creatures. Since there are only a relative few samples in Ketchum’s study, the finding that all showed human mtDNA means that all the samples were in the lineage of a male-non-human/female-human bond since mtDNA is passed down only via the mother. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the immediate mother was not herself a hybrid or even that the father was not a hybrid, only that some female in the lineage was purely human and the rest of the females in the lineage have been either fully human or hybrids carrying the human mtDNA.

    Assuming for argument that Ketchum’s results are accurate, they say nothing about whether the whole Sasquatch population has human mtDNA. If the original non-human species exists in pure form or if the male -human/female-non-human bonds were viable, there could be Sasquatches running around with non-human mtDNA.

    In other words there could be two types of mtDNA in these creatures, one of which simply didn’t appear in any of the Ketchum samples. Note that, even in bondings between the two theoretical mtDNA types, the mtDNA of the mother would be carried through to the offspring. There is no way to blend mtDNA types, only nuDNA.

    What would such hybridization imply for the field researcher? It would seem to imply more human traits, including size, hair, body build, facial characteristics, and behavior. Researchers have noted differences in body type and size among sighting reports that could signify genetically pure Sasquatch vs. creatures of various extents of hybridization.

    Hybridization also implies that the genetically pure Sasquatch is/was very closely related to man and is not an ape since all known apes have 24 chromosome pairs and humans have 23 chromosome pairs, making viable ape/human meiosis highly unlikely from natural fertilization.

    (Full disclaimer: I have a non-monetary bet on Sasquatch being in the same family as man.)

    Assuming again for discussion the validity of Ketchum’s findings, what does the future of Bigfoot/Sasquatch research look like? I would expect the gathering of range and behavioral data to be HUGE but also huge would be the search for non-hybrid Sasquatch and for non-human mtDNA hybrid examples.

    While the impending full release of Ketchum’s findings appears to take the cake for inauspicious beginnings, let us remain open to what we can actually glean from the findings that may help in future research efforts.

  9. springheeledjack responds:

    I’d add to it–but there’s really nothing to add…

    If this was a legitimate study (which I now do not believe), then they totally screwed it up and themselves. If it was not, then like stevedlocke said, why waste all of that time for a build up. Either way, nobody’s getting $30 out of me for some online journal that’s just creative writing…

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