Saturday, August 31, 2013

Is something afoot with Bigfoot?

Purported Yeti scalp at Khumjung Monastery (source). Has DNA been retrieved from it for the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project?

Over a year ago, geneticist Bryan Sykes launched the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project:

As part of a larger enquiry into the genetic relationship between our own species Homo sapiens and other hominids, we invite submissions of organic material from formally undescribed species, or “cryptids”, for the purpose of their species identification by genetic means. (Sykes, 2012)

The aim was to retrieve DNA from alleged remains of Yeti, Bigfoot, and the like. At the time, I was skeptical that anything would come of the project, since most remains of this type seem to be of dubious provenance. And then there’s the problem of contamination due to human handling.

So I was surprised to see this update on the project webpage, dated August 2013:

Thanks to all who have contributed samples to the project. We have collected and analysed over thirty samples and results are being prepared for publication. Following normal procedure, no results or other information will be available prior to publication, so please do not enquire.

Academics normally don’t like to publish negative results. When I googled the project name, I came across this report about Bryan Sykes meeting with people who had submitted samples of alleged Bigfoot remains: 

Interestingly, Professor Sykes has been visiting North America recently in order to speak with some of the researchers who have submitted samples, and he has also met with US Fish and Wildlife officials at one of their main laboratories located in Melford, Oregon. It has been revealed that Professor Sykes was in California very recently to speak with Justin Smeja, and also to be filmed for a documentary detailing his study which will be released on BBC Channel 4 once the results of the many samples tested by Sykes are published in a scientific journal. (Cooney, 2013)

Something seems to be afoot.  


Cooney, J. (2013). Exciting updates on the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project, Bizarre Zoology, June 12

Sykes, B. (2012). Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project, Wolfson College, University of Oxford


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Sean said...

If there is anything but abominably negative results, I would think the samples are very old, and not from an archaic human of North America. I've read there were giant bears in north America and no trees to escape up. For something alive in the last millennium, Tibet has to be a better bet.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Bigfoot already discovered to have lived up to about 100,000 years ago?

Jay Cooney said...

Something does seem to possibly be afoot, but we'll have to wait for this fall to see. Thanks for referencing my article :)

Peter Fros_ said...


Endogamy seems to be culturally mediated, although I wouldn't rule out some kind of imprinting, e.g., by a suckling infant on its mother's face. I recently referreed a paper that argues for an imprinting effect.


To be honest, I'm a Bigfoot-skeptic. Such a creature would need a reasonably large breeding population to perpetuate itself, as well as a large contiguous habitat. Surely we would have caught one by now.

Yet Bryan Sykes is a reputable geneticist and he seems to have found something, unless I'm reading too much between the lines.


I'm more open to the idea that archaic hominins have survived in Asia, at least until recent times. But there's no record of Gigantopithecus (or other hominids/hominins) in North America.

Jay Cooney,

I can hardly wait!! ;)

Sean said...

Deer species of SE Asia were still being discovered in the 90's. Pygmy chimps were last to be discovered.
A lot more likely than a ten foot snowbeast, would be 'Smallfoot', an ultra-cautious Homo floresiensis like species that browsed in the rain-forest. Yeti-nother possibility is that the samples are phonies and actually of modern humans, but of a human in North America who had previously unknown DNA, like that Y chromosome from Cameroon that is 70% older than any other in modern humans.

Bones and Behaviours said...

What about the Caucasus or Hindukush?

Or South America - there's no saying it has to be hominin DNA to be interesting.

Peter, have you any idea where the samples might be taken from.

Anonymous said...

There are various species of snub-nosed monkeys in southern China and northern SE Asia. These snub-nosed monkeys resemble East Asians. Is it possible that East Asians evolved from them or are related to them? That an archaic hominin related to the snub nosed monkeys interbred with East Asians? Would this be consistent with any multiregional theories?

Anonymous said...

I'd say it's more likely that Sykes has been travelling in connection with some film project or other, but that's just a guess. I'd love for him to find something.

Anonymous said...

Sykes is doing this project in conjunction with the Museum of Lausanne in Switzerland. I recall Bernard Heuvelmans donated his collection to the Museum of Lausanne in 1999 before is death. Heuvelmans was known as the father of cryptozoology.

Perhaps the Museum of Lausanne found something from Heuvelmans collection and Sykes is expanding on it?

Bones and Behaviours said...

What happened with the DNA testing of the Longlin-Maludong people?

Anonymous said...

What happened with the DNA testing of the Longlin-Maludong people?

Good question! They were known to exist in China during the time the paleo-Indians crossed the Bering Strait.

With recent discovery of Denisova, we should not be surprised that some other hominid may have followed the paleo-Indians to North America.

Bones and Behaviours said...

According to Jeff Meldrum the Lishu hominin is also under study.