A cow is not Bigfoot. Nor is a wolf, a bear, or a racoon -- but hair samples from all of these creatures were given to an pair of academics looking for the truth behind the Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti legend.
Psychologist Rhettman Mullins and geneticist Brian Sykes put out a call for testable hair from a Bigfoot/Sasquatch/Yeti, and from around the world were given all sorts of follicles -- including one strand of fiberglass.
According to a story in LiveScience, the hair came from over thirty other anmal species of every imaginable variety, even including a couple of extinct bears.
What it didn't come from was any species even remotely human.
Daily journalism is the first draft of history, they say; well, this looks to be a story crying out for another draft or two. So much cannot be said in 800 or so words.
Just the combination of the academic/scientific co-authors intrigues.
First we meet a psychologist named Rhettman Mullis, a believer in the legend, and fascinated enough with it to be part of a site/community devoted to its study. He joined forces with a geneticist named Brian Sykes. Unusual.
To pick up this thread from the Livescience story:
...Sykes, a geneticist at the University of Oxford in England, teamed up with Mullis and other researchers to solicit hair samples from supposed Bigfoot sightings around the world. If the sightings were real, the thinking went, then the DNA should not match that of any known animal.
The team received 57 samples, one of which was actually a piece of fiberglass, the researchers said. After winnowing down the samples to the most likely bets, the team did a genetic analysis on 36 of the samples.
Almost all came from known animals, including cows, horses, raccoons, humans, deer, coyotes, and even a Malaysian tapir. None of the samples, however, came from a completely new primate species, the researchers said.
So it's over for the Bigfoot legend, is that what they're saying?
Kaput. Finished. Through.
No, not exactly -- the clever investigation takes another twist.
...two hair samples, one from Bhutan and the other from Ladakh, India, closely matched the genetic sequence of an extinct Paleolithic polar bear. One came from an animal shot over 40 years ago by an experienced hunter, who claimed the bear acted more aggressively than do typical brown bears. The other came from an area that is reputed to be the nest of a "migyhur," the Bhutanese version of a Yeti.
It's possible that the two samples are from a previously unrecognized bear species or a hybrid of existing species, the researchers said. If the newly discovered bears are widespread, they may contribute to the legend of the Yeti, especially if the hunter's report of more aggressive behavior is representative of the species as a whole, the authors wrote in the paper.
The story goes on to quote Mullins saying that despite this finding, he still believes in something Yeti-ish in the Himalayas. He points out that there are three words in the language of the area for this creature, only one of which means bear.
Okay -- but what about the geneticist?
The story appears not to ask Sykes -- for some reason.
Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes poses with a prepared DNA sample taken from hair from a Himalayan animal. DNA testing is taking a bite out of the Bigfoot legend. After scientists analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot and Yeti, they found all of them came from more mundane animals like bears, wolves, cows, and raccoons. In 2012, researchers at Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology issued an open call asking museums, scientists, and Bigfoot aficionados to share any samples they thought were from the mythical ape-like creatures. BBC4/AP/File