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The Sasquatch Sequence

When Melba Ketchum from DNA Diagnostics announced back in November that she and her colleagues had sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear genomes from samples purported to come from the creature known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot, the Daily Scan remarked that it was looking forward to seeing the paper Ketchum said was in review. That paper, Ketchum now says, is out.

The Sasquatch sequencing paper seems to be the only paper currently appearing in a newly minted journal called the DeNovo Journal of Science. While the full paper is behind a paywall, the available abstract says that Ketchum and her colleagues examined 111 samples thought to be from Sasquatch and subjected those samples to mitochondrial DNA and SNP analysis as well as whole-genome sequencing on a next-gen platform.

In a press release, Ketchum adds that Sasquatch appears to be a hybrid between humans and a novel primate species. "While the three Sasquatch nuclear genomes aligned well with one another and showed significant homology to human chromosome 11, the Sasquatch genomes were novel and fell well outside of known ancient hominin as well as ape sequences," she adds. "Because some of the mtDNA haplogroups found in our Sasquatch samples originated as late as 13,000 years ago, we are hypothesizing that the Sasquatch are human hybrids, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens."

Ars Technica's John Timmer has gotten a copy of the paper, and notes, never mind the intriguing sources of the samples, that the details of the paper appear to contradict the authors' conclusions. He writes that the mitochondrial DNA data presented shows that it clusters with modern humans, but mostly with modern humans of European or Middle Eastern descent, not with people of Native American descent as the timing of interbreeding about 13,000 years ago would have suggested would be the case. Then, Timmer says, "as far as the nuclear genome is concerned, the results are a mess." He adds: "The products of the DNA amplifications performed on the samples look about like what you'd expect when the reaction didn't amplify the intended sequence."

"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," Princeton University's Leonid Kruglyak tells the Houston Chronicle's SciGuy, Eric Berger. "Instead, analyses either come back as 100% human, or fail in ways that suggest technical artifacts." Baylor College of Medicine's Richard Gibbs also tells Berger that he would need to the raw sequencing data, which the paper only provides as a text file.

Doubtful News points out that Ketchum tried to, and was unsuccessful in, submitting the manuscript to other journals, and so she started the DeNovo journal. As Genome Biology tweets, "No journal will publish your sasquatch/bigfoot paper? Could the answer be to start your own journal?... #problemsolved."