Earlier this year, a team of researchers from DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, N.M., led by Melba Ketchum, published a paper to the online journal De Novo with a startling title: "Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies."
In layman's terms, what "novel North American hominins" refers to is Bigfoot. Yes, that's right: Ketchum and her team were claiming to have sequenced the genome of Sasquatch.
It's not every day that researchers get the opportunity to sequence the genome of a creature for which no recognized physical evidence exists. In fact, this would be the first instance of such an endeavor. The principal reason it's never been done before is because, of course, you need to have DNA before you can sequence a genome.
Though Ketchum and her team did not have a body, they did have several clumps of hair, as well as samples of flesh and blood, which were collected in the field. In fact, the team assembled as many as 111 samples from which to extract DNA — again, a remarkable feat considering no Bigfoot body has ever been identified.
Before succumbing to a collective eye roll, first consider that most of these samples, though collected unattached from an identifiable animal, did turn out to be unusual. Researchers were able to successfully determine that the samples were non-human in origin, yet the mitochondrial DNA derived from them did appear to be human.
"It's non-human hair — it's clearly non-human hair — it was washed and prepared forensically, and it gave a human mitochondrial DNA result. That just doesn't happen," Ketchum told Arstechnica.com.
From this fact, Ketchum and her team claimed proof of the existence of an unknown hominid roaming the forests of North America.
Though the results were indeed unusual, they were a bit too unusual. In fact, they were practically nonsensical. Even worse, they were the kind of results one would expect to come from contaminated or poorly preserved samples. An in-depth analysis of the results can be found at Arstechnica. In short, the results were littered with internal inconsistencies, which are usually telltale signs of contamination.
To conclude anything of substance from the results would be questionable, to say the least, but Ketchum and her team instead proceeded to use the discrepancies as evidence for a number of bizarre interpretations. For instance, though the DNA samples did have human elements, other elements showed only a distant relationship to humans. In fact, the kinship would have been even more distant than the one between humans and apes. To explain this, the team concluded that Bigfoot was not — as is commonly believed — a separate species of hominid, but rather a hybrid that resulted from the interbreeding of humans and some other unidentified extinct species of primate.
To reiterate, at some point in the not-too-distant past, fully modern humans would have had to have successfully bred with an unknown primate more distantly related to us than apes (such as chimps, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas). The resultant offspring of this unlikely union would have been Bigfoot.
Furthermore, the human DNA samples from the study were shown to have a European or Middle Eastern origin, and the alleged period of interbreeding between humans and the unknown species of primate would have occurred around 13,000 years ago. To explain the migration of the Bigfoot species to North America in this time frame, Ketchum suggested that they raced across Europe and Asia at unprecedented speed, to cross over the Bering land bridge that existed between Siberia and Alaska during the last ice age.
How did they accomplish such a speedy migration? Because, "they're very fast," claimed Ketchum. "I've seen them, that's why I can say that."
Of course, the simplest answer to these bizarre DNA results is that the samples were contaminated with bits of human DNA, along with various other forest critters. In fact, when the samples were compared to the genomes of other known creatures using specialized software, they revealed relationships to animals such as opossums, mice, rats, and — perhaps most revealing — bears. (Bears are the animals most likely to be mistaken for Bigfoot in North American forests).
Nevertheless, Ketchum remains steadfast in her belief that the study proves Bigfoot's existence. She has created a new species name for the creature, Homo sapiens cognatus, and is even currently working to protect Bigfoot's human and constitutional rights.
"All we wanted to do with the paper was to prove there was something novel out there that was basically Homo, and the mitochondrial DNA placed it clearly in Homo," she said.
It is perhaps also worth noting that this paper is the only one that the journal De Novo has ever published. The journal is also owned by Ketchum.
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