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Nov 28 2012

What I really want to see is the DNA sequence of an alien Grey

Dr Melba S. Ketchum has made press release of an astonishing discovery: she has sequenced Bigfoot DNA, she claims.

“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.

Hominins are members of the taxonomic grouping Hominini, which includes all members of the genus Homo. Genetic testing has already ruled out Homo neanderthalis and the Denisova hominin as contributors to Sasquatch mtDNA or nuDNA. “The male progenitor that contributed the unknown sequence to this hybrid is unique as its DNA is more distantly removed from humans than other recently discovered hominins like the Denisovan individual,” explains Ketchum.

“Sasquatch nuclear DNA is incredibly novel and not at all what we had expected. While it has human nuclear DNA within its genome, there are also distinctly non-human, non-archaic hominin, and non-ape sequences. We describe it as a mosaic of human and novel non-human sequence. Further study is needed and is ongoing to better characterize and understand Sasquatch nuclear DNA.”

Wait. Fully human mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from your mother, so she assumes that all Sasquatches had human women as relatively recent ancestors, but at the same time, the nuclear DNA is some bizarre mish-mash that includes non-ape sequences? That makes no sense at all.

Well, there’s one way it makes sense: it’s the result of sloppy lab work and high levels of contamination, and a complete lack of discrimination on the part of the investigators. No details have been released yet, but I imagine that what they’re sequencing are from hair samples turned in by Bigfoot investigators: dirty, grimy hair samples collected by a mix of charlatans and naive, deluded hunters. I wonder if there are raccoon and possum genes in their sequences…

The paper has not been published, and I don’t see how making a press release about a paper in peer review would help. I expect that no reputable journal will touch it, and it will sink unpublished…except that the myth that Bigfoot DNA has been examined and found to be unique will live on.

But here’s what really bugs me: it’s from a DNA lab called DNA Diagnostics, Inc. They do forensics, paternity testing, and consulting/expert witnessing in the court system in Texas. Would you trust results from that lab? How many other labs doing forensic DNA testing are run by people who think they can identify Bigfoot in a sample? If Ketchum has dealt with any criminal cases, I foresee grounds for future court challenges in her future.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    Reginald Selkirk

    It gets even funnier. hat tip Zingularity

    As it turns out, Ketchum says her DNA sample was obtained from a blueberry bagel left in the backyard of a Michigan woman who claims that 10 Sasquatch creatures visit her property on a regular basis.

  2. 2
    The Mellow Monkey

    It makes far more sense to leave a bagel for Sasquatch to nibble on than put up a trail cam, doesn’t it?

    Really thoughtful of the Bigfeet to leave the bagel after taking a bite, instead of taking it with them or eating the whole thing. Maybe they discovered they hated the taste.

  3. 3
    richardelguru

    I hear Melba is now toast.

  4. 4
    peterh

    Color me untutored in the niceties of DNA analysis, but it seems the whole house of cards is based on “purported samples.” If your opening assumptions are questionable, your conclusions aren’t likely to be very trustworthy.

  5. 5
    timgueguen

    This will be debunked in fairly short order, but of course the true believers will come up with conspiracy theories explaining why the “world changing discovery” was “suppressed.”

  6. 6
    eric

    But here’s what really bugs me: it’s from a DNA lab called DNA Diagnostics, Inc. They do forensics, paternity testing, and consulting/expert witnessing in the court system in Texas. Would you trust results from that lab?

    I’m sure a lot of unethical prosecutors and defense attorneys are now thinking: “If they confirmed some woman’s bigfoot story, I can trust them to give me exactly the results I want. So yes, I now plan on using them every time I have a DNA sample I need analyzed.”

  7. 7
    richardelguru

    “includes non-ape sequences”
    presumably from the blueberries?
    That’d be quite non-ape.

  8. 8
    Celtic_Evolution

    What drives me buggy is how the entire discussion is presented as if she were talking about a sample from a KNOWN species, and not just some random, unknown pile of hair and dung… making statements about “Sasquatch nuclear DNA” as if it were a controlled sample from a known species. She doesn’t know what the fuck she has, but has no problem operating from a pre-determined conclusion without even a thought of using a qualifier like “supposed”.

    You are a pooooor scientist, Dr. Venkman…

  9. 9
    The Mellow Monkey

    If the sample is truly off of a bagel left outside overnight, my guess is that the non-primate DNA would be examples from Procyon lotor and a member of the Sciuridae family.

    AKA random critters that eat people food from backyards.

  10. 10
    robb

    the link at Zingularity about this scientific marvel also says this:

    “For starters, Berger notes that while Ketchum has 27 years of genetic research experience during her career as a veterinarian, her company, DNA Diagnostics, has received an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau.

    But more important, Ketchum has not allowed scientific peer review of her findings.”

    incontrovertible truth!

  11. 11
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    In the infamous words of Ash Ketchum, ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All!’

  12. 12
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Finally we may have a forensic answer to the question: How many crimes are committed by Bigfoot?

  13. 13
    myeck waters

    Just the cases of missing bagels should add up to hundreds per year.

  14. 14
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Twould be funny if bigfoot lived in the exburbs of Detroit.

  15. 15
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    PZ – you can’t see the DNA sequence of a Grey. They don’t have DNA, silly. Their genetic information is carried by a completely different mechanism.

  16. 16
    Ben P

    But here’s what really bugs me: it’s from a DNA lab called DNA Diagnostics, Inc. They do forensics, paternity testing, and consulting/expert witnessing in the court system in Texas. Would you trust results from that lab? How many other labs doing forensic DNA testing are run by people who think they can identify Bigfoot in a sample? If Ketchum has dealt with any criminal cases, I foresee grounds for future court challenges in her future.

    I end up having to get results from commercial labs from time to time and while some of the labs are certainly pretty questionable, I think its very important to remember these are enterprises run to make a profit, not university labs or state run labs.

    I can say with a pretty high degree of confidence that if you pick out some random private gene testing lab, bring them a dirty hair sample (or a bagle as the case may be) and say “I want you to test the DNA on this sample” they will say “sure! that will be $300″

    In a way that’s not terribly different from the crap cops always bring in as evidence and ask to be gene tested. “Oh, you swabbed some blood from a stain on the floor of a bar? wonderful!”

    The difference between the good labs and the bad labs is that the good ones will be fully open about cross-contamination in the sample and the possibilities their report is completely off. The bad ones will either leave you to interpret the report or will just say what the person paying them wants them to say, like “we show the testing to be an unknown species.”

  17. 17
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    PZ – you can’t see the DNA sequence of a Grey. They don’t have DNA, silly. Their genetic information is carried by a completely different mechanism.

    Then how are they crossbreeding with humans, huh? Huh? Didn’t think of that, did you?

  18. 18
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Stevarious:

    Greys don’t cross-breed with humans, they’re not interested in us except to stick probes up our backsides. Reptilians, however, those guys do.

  19. 19
    =8)-DX

    In the infamous words of Ash Ketchum, ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All!’

    Oh my! How does she know it isn’t pokemon DNA? Perhaps it was a Pikachu…

  20. 20
    A. R

    Hey! PZ is talking about teh real skepticismz again! Bigfoot not feminazi bitchezz!!!

  21. 21
    Ing

    I have to admit the name makes me suspect intentional hoax

  22. 22
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    =8)-DX, she ought to consult with that other Katchum.

  23. 23
    usingreason

    Ketchum calls on public officials and law enforcement to immediately recognize the Sasquatch as an indigenous people:

    Creditability fading, fading, fading …

  24. 24
    Ing

    If I had to guess Sasquatch would be Normal/Grass?

    Or given the ape like shape of it and it’s skill at hiding maybe Fight/Dark?

  25. 25
    Ing

    Whatever it’s type it’s going to have an annoyingly high Attack and learn Rest at level 32

  26. 26
    birgerjohansson

    “PZ – you can’t see the DNA sequence of a Grey. They don’t have DNA, silly. Their genetic information is carried by a completely different mechanism”

    Greys are just androids, used by the ruling super-AIs. They don’t have genes any more than red blood cells do.

    They stick probes up our backsides as part of their bioprospecting program. Most of our metagenome is in commensal bacteria. The job is unpleasant, which is why the grey androids are so useful.

    I suspect the entity that ate the donut is really a Mexican Staring Frog from Sri Lanka, as described in South Park.
    — — — — — —
    “How many crimes are committed by Bigfoot?”

    They kill and eat anyone who gets close enouh to get a *good* picture!

  27. 27
    Nick Gotts

    They kill and eat anyone who gets close enouh to get a *good* picture! – birgirjohansson

    And, of course, they also eat the camera.

  28. 28
    A. R

    birgerjohansson: RBCs still have genes in their mtDNA!

  29. 29
    Ing

    The pictures of Bigfoot are fine, Bigfoots themselves are blurry

  30. 30
    Ing

    It’s similar to the Loch Ness Monster which has the unique defense mechanism of turning into a pile of logs when startled

  31. 31
    A. R

    Ing: They can also turn themselves into schools or fish and otters.

  32. 32
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @birger:

    Mexican Staring Frog?

  33. 33
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Ing/AR:

    Also into toy submarines with plaster heads that resemble the Loch Ness monster.

  34. 34
    Monsanto

    Isn’t anyone concerned that Bigfoot has been fuckin our wimmin?

  35. 35
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Commenter calling themself “totalretard” at #34, please change your nym.

  36. 36
    birgerjohansson

    A.R.

    I stand corrected. Of course they have mitochondria, and thus mtDNA.
    — — — — — —
    Katherine Lorraine,

    Haha, yes, totaly a hypnotoad!
    — — — — — —
    =8)-DX,

    If the DNA is the kind most common among Japanese, it must be a Chipokemon creature (se South Park) “We have very small penis!”

  37. 37
    birgerjohansson

    Re. comment 36;
    Tpyos, Lord of Bad Speling strikes again.

  38. 38
    a3kr0n

    It’s all Monkey Dust.

  39. 39
    katkinkate

    Sounds like an unethical genetic experiment to me. Someone cross-bred two primates, extracted the n-DNA from the resulting hybrid and used it to replace the n-DNA in a human egg cell. I wonder who/what gestated the result.

  40. 40
    ChasCPeterson

    no, actually you were right the first time. Mammalian erythrocytes lack mitochondria.

  41. 41
    alwayscurious

    The difference between the good labs and the bad labs is that the good ones will be fully open about cross-contamination in the sample and the possibilities their report is completely off. The bad ones will either leave you to interpret the report or will just say what the person paying them wants them to say, like “we show the testing to be an unknown species.”

    This disgusts me on an even deeper limit. Telling people what they want to hear is one thing, but then publishing a press release on bad science is a whole new level of filth. She must be very deluded.

  42. 42
    A. R

    This true Chas, which is why they are dependent on glycolytic ATP production (Also, as I recall, why they don’t use any of the O2 transported). But I get a bit pedantic when people say that RBCs in general never have any DNA. Frogs people frogs!

  43. 43
    A. R

    Tpyos and all of that.

  44. 44
    microraptor

    @alwayscurious- “Very deluded” is one of the more polite descriptions for someone who claims to have gotten a Bigfoot DNA sample from a bagel.

  45. 45
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    “Very deluded” is one of the more polite descriptions for someone who claims to have gotten a Bigfoot DNA sample from a bagel.

    So, did the sasquatch send in a human mark to buy the bagel, or did it go in and buy the bagel on its own. Inquiring minds want to know….

  46. 46
    A. R

    Clearly its human female mate (how else would it get human mtDNA) got it for it.

  47. 47
    rq

    What worries me is that it’s a forensics lab doing the analysis, and if all of that is from contamination, then… That is some terrible, terrible lab work which should not be allowed near any kind of contentious case, civil or criminal. *shudder* Heck, we have bad lab conditions, but even we manage to extract only-human DNA from all our samples. :P

  48. 48
    michaelumilik

    Ha, looks like old Ilya might’ve been successful after all and some of his hybrids got away….. It all makes sense now…..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilya_Ivanovich_Ivanov_(biologist)

  49. 49
    lpetrich

    Human mtDNA? Why didn’t that lab sequence it and compare it to other human mtDNA sequences? Like those of that bagel’s handlers, including that Michigan woman and some lab technicians.

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