Showing posts with label Oxford University.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oxford University.. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Today Show: Using DNA to Track Yeti

Books from the world's largest archive of Yeti information stored in a museum in Switzerland
Below is the Today Show piece that aired a segment on the Oxford University Yeti DNA project headed by Bryan Sykes. Click the following link to read our complete coverage on the Yeti DNA Project.

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Using DNA to track the mythical yeti

Tales of the giant, mountain-dwelling yeti have been told for decades, but is it just a myth or does the creature exist? To get answers, Oxford professor Brian Sykes is using DNA analysis to test material connected to the yeti. NBC’s Keith Miller reports. src:Today Show

Friday, August 17, 2012

Everything You Didn't Know About the Bryan Sykes' Bigfoot DNA Research

Painting Showing Gigantoopithecus being watched (hunted?) by Homo erectus [Credit: Profimedia] 
“Science does not accept or reject hypotheses but evaluates them on the basis of evidence. This is why I am confident that examining the evidence of alleged Yetis does not fall outside the realm of proper scientific enquiry.” -- Bryan Sykes; Project lead on the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project

As we get closer to the deadline (September 2012) for accepting specimens for the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project; a/k/a Bryan Sykes' Bigfoot DNA research. The story is making the rounds in the media again. You can read our past posts about Bryan Sykes and his Bigfoot DNA research, but it is all wrapped up in a nice package in the article below. Here is the most extensive article about the research. How it came about, how the research will be done and what it hopes to determine.

Yetis in the lab: The search for mythical beasts

By Georgina Kenyon | 16 August 2012
Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yowie - names that conjure up images of giant reclusive creatures that never quite stay still long enough for the photographer to focus their camera.
Over the years, hundreds of sightings of these supposedly mythical beasts have been recorded around the world by the public and so-called cryptozoologists, who scour the world in search of evidence for their existence. “Proof” comes in many forms, from fuzzy photographs and shaky videos to plaster casts of footprints and tufts of hair. But, as yet, none of these encounters has provided any conclusive evidence and cryptozoology remains a field largely disregarded by science. Instead, with a knowing look and a snigger, “sightings” of “cryptids” are explained away as hoaxes, existing species or the products of over excited imaginations.

So it makes it all the more extraordinary that established scientists would become involved in a search that, on the face of it, looks like it could help to prove whether or not these undocumented creatures exist. But, in May of this year, researchers from Switzerland and the UK did just that when they launched the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project.

“It’s one of the claims by cryptozoologists that science does not take them seriously. Well, this is their chance. We are calling for people to send us their evidence, and we will test it through DNA analysis,” says Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford in the UK.

It is likely that the project is the biggest and most comprehensive attempt yet to probe suspected “remains”. “Nothing like this, on this level, has been done before,” says Richard Freeman from the Centre for Fortean Zoology in the UK. But therein lies the rub.  For people like Freeman who devote their lives to looking for these creatures, it is the biggest signal yet that after years out in the cold mainstream science is finally taking the seriously. But for some scientists, the whole venture is an embarrassing curiosity to be held at arm’s length.

Sykes is no stranger to media storms. As well as his work retrieving ancient DNA samples and mapping human migration through DNA analysis, he is also the founder of a business called Oxford Ancestors, which helps people trace their relatives through DNA for a fee. In 2003, the company claimed that an accountant from South Florida was a direct descendent of the Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan – something that sparked headlines around the world. Later analysis – and headlines –suggested that his company’s interpretation was incorrect.

Hair today...

If the episode scarred Sykes, it does not show. His new project was similarly announced to much fanfare, again sending headline writers into overdrive. “Scientists seek big genes of bigfoot”, read one. But the professor says that the response was to be expected. Myths and legends about these creatures loom large in every culture and the idea of finally finding solid evidence for their existence is appealing, no matter who you are. “It’s a story that just does not go away, we are so intrigued by these quests for the unknown, even doubters want to hear about developments,” he says.

For his own part, he says that he sees “no reason why there cannot be species not yet known to science”, but adds the caveat that he would “need to see the evidence”. He is also keen to point out that he is not – nor intends to become – a cryptozoologist. “I don’t not want to become completely eccentric,” he adds.

The idea for the project came about in 2011 when Sykes visited Dr Michel Sartori, the Director of the Museum of Zoology in Lausanne in Switzerland. Out of sheer curiosity, Sykes had gone to view the museum’s extensive library of books on cryptozoology, including over 40,000 documents and photos from a collection donated by the late Belgian-French scientist Bernard Heuvelmans.  He was a trained zoologist, who also spent much of his life looking for cryptids. The museum holds many of his books, such as In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents, which records “sightings” of giant squids and whale-like animals.

During the visit, the pair began to wonder if they could build on Huevelmans’s work and expand the museum’s display. “We started to think it would really enhance the collection if we also had specimens of ‘cryptids’ on show,” says Sartori.

And so the Hominid project was born. The team have put a call out for people around the world to submit samples to the team before September, along with theories about what they could be. They then plan to use DNA barcoding to test each specimen. It is a technique that is widely used in biology. For example it is used by food inspectors to check what is served up on a plate is what a restaurant says it is. Customs officials also use it to stop trafficking of illegal animal parts, whilst field biologists use it to identify organisms. In all cases the technique is largely the same. A sequence of DNA is extracted from an organism or sample of interest and then compared against a DNA bank.

In the case of the Collateral Hominid Project, the team will largely focus on hair samples – the most commonly presented physical evidence to back up claims of sightings.

“Up until the last couple of years, you needed quite a lot of biological material … and often the results were inconclusive,” said Sykes. “Now, all we need is a small amount of hair.”

Hair is useful because the keratin – a kind of biological plastic that encases the hair shaft -  protects the DNA that it contains from the contamination and degradation that can affect DNA from other parts of the body, such as teeth and bone. Once they have extracted a sample, the will compare it to the billions of sequences published online, such as at Genbank (managed by the National Institutes of Health in the US). If the sequence is different to those known from existing species it may be a new species. The more DNA that is used, the more reliable the comparison.

‘Hidden from view’

But even if the team find a sequence of DNA that has no match in the world’s databases it does not automatically mean that the creature is a mythical beast, says Albert Zink, an anthropologist at the European Academy of Bolzano in Italy who questions the validity of the whole enterprise. “It could be a sample of an extinct animal that has nothing to do with the Yeti myth,” he explains.

Sykes admits that might be the case but he is unconcerned. Although the search for Yeti DNA grabbed the headlines, it is part of a bigger project charting the relationship between our own species and others. It could even help identify new species of hominid - a general term archaeologists and paleontologists use for humans and our ancestors.  The team want to use the samples to narrow down their search for unknown species – alive or dead, mythical or not. If the DNA tests find something of interest, the thinking goes, the team can began to look for other clues – potentially in the area where the sample was found. Cryptids became involved because, along with unstudied primate species and subspecies of bears, some people believe the legends could describe distant relations.

"Theories as to what Yetis are... range from surviving collateral hominid species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, to large primates like Gigantopithecus, which were widely thought to be extinct,” says Sykes.

These theories were given a boost in 2004 when scientists published details of skeletal remains of a species of human (Homo floresiensis) from the Indonesian island of Flores, in the journal Nature. The adult species, previously unknown to science, was just 1m (3ft) tall and was likely a descendent of Homo Erectus, which arrived on the island 900,000 years ago. As far as scientists can tell, the “hobbit”, as it was nicknamed, survived for thousands of years unnoticed by modern humans and was still alive as recently as 12,000 years.

Finds like this make it more likely that accounts of mythical, human-like creatures could be founded on grains of truth, some say. For example, the Indonesian cryptid Orang Pendek (“short person”) is often described in Indonesian folklore as a small, hairy, manlike creature not dissimilar to Homo floresiensis.

As Henry Gee, an editor at the respected Nature Journal, wrote in 2004 following the discovery: “In the light of the Flores skeleton, a recent initiative to scour central Sumatra for 'Orang Pendek' can be viewed in a more serious light.

He also argued that new species of mammal – including oxen - are still occasionally discovered by scientists. “If animals as large as oxen can remain hidden into an era when we would expect that scientists had rustled every tree and bush in search of new forms of life, there is no reason why the same should not apply to new species of large primate, including members of the human family,” he wrote.

Gee has since stepped away from the debate, but it’s a theory that others buy into. “Given how people are encroaching on wilderness areas, it seems increasingly unlikely that large mammals, and especially human-like species, remain undocumented,” says Dr Murray Cox from the Institute of Molecular BioSciences, Massey University in New Zealand. “However, some parts of the world, including the Himalayas and the arctic forests of North America, still show very limited impact by humans. So perhaps the possibility of new mammal species there cannot be completely discounted.”

‘Proper science’

But, others are less forgiving. According to Prof. Darren Curnoe of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Australia, the chances of finding a completely new species of hominid are remote. He is also critical of the project efforts, especially linking it to the possibility of finding a Yeti.

“There are far better ways to spend scarce funding for science than chasing mythological creatures and more than enough real and mind-boggling mysteries in nature to keep many generations of scientists busy,” he says.

Sykes has heard that kind of criticism ever since the project started. Although he admits that the project is speculative and unlikely to find a new species of hominid, he argues the search is still valid.

“Science does not accept or reject hypotheses but evaluates them on the basis of evidence,” he says. “This is why I am confident that examining the evidence of alleged Yetis does not fall outside the realm of proper scientific enquiry.”

And, of course, the project has captured the public’s imagination in a way that much of science does not. Put simply, the idea of a Yeti – or some other undocumented mythical beast from folklore – remains a seductive idea for humans. It taps into our desire to explore and understand the world around us, and to believe there are still things left to be discovered. It is part of the reason there was recently a team of 38 people tramping into the remote mountains of the Shennongjia nature reserve in Hubei, China, in search of the yeren. And part of the reason that countless teams over the last 100 years have probed forests, mountains, jungles and islands from the Himalayas to Borneo in search of them.

But the fate of these kind of expeditions – and the entire field of cryptozoology - could soon be decided by Sykes and his team. If the Oxford Lausanne project finds something interesting, it opens up the possibility of further attention from mainstream science. But another possibility is that the team races through all of the samples in the museum and proves that all of them come from species already known to science. Certainly history suggests this outcome is likely.

For example a “Yeti finger” that lay in the Royal College of Surgeons museum in London since the 1950s was tested in 2011, revealing that the remains were in fact human. Whilst in 2008, tests on hairs collected in India that were also said to have come for a showed they came from a species of Himalayan goat. Countless other examples have met with similar results.

If that is the case, the current saviour of cryptozoology could become its own worst enemy. And then, Sartori says, it will be time for believers to put up or shut up.

“We are challenging the people who claim to have seen the Yeti or the Orang Pendek to show us real evidence, or otherwise hold your peace,” he says.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recent Bigfoot News Used to Teach English

 The Voice of America articles covers Bryan Sykes Research,
other cryptids and Oetzi (above) the iceman 
Special English is a controlled version of the English language first used on October 19, 1959, and still presented daily by the United States broadcasting service Voice of America (VOA). World news and other programs are read one-third slower than regular VOA English. Reporters avoid idioms and use a core vocabulary of about 1500 words, plus any terms needed to explain a story. The intended audience is intermediate to advanced learners of English.

Voice of America offers many news items in Special English to help learn not only the english language, but also to improve accents to sound like a native english speaker. Most articles are accompanied with audio as this one is below. The article covers the Collateral Hominid Project conducted by researchers from Oxford University and the Swiss Lausanne Museum of Zoology. So enjoy the audio that goes with the article below.

The Search for DNA from A Creature That May Not Exist

Read, listen and learn English with this story.

BOB DOUGHTY: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I’m Bob Doughty.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Today we tell about an appeal for genetic material from a famous creature that may not even exist. We report on the health of a man who lived five thousand years ago. And we tell about the effect of changing weather conditions on human ancestors -- the Neanderthals.


BOB DOUGHTY: Scientists have launched a genetic search for a large, ape-like creature called the Yeti. They are appealing to people who claim that Yetis exist to provide evidence of the creature.

Researchers from Oxford University and the Swiss Lausanne Museum of Zoology are calling their study the Collateral Hominid Project. Hominid is the general genetic family of primates. It includes modern human beings, also known as homo sapiens. The family also includes all other early human and human-like species.

BARBARA KLEIN: The Yeti is said to live in the mountains of Nepal and Tibet. It is most often described as a large, hairy hominid. It reportedly stands between two and two and one-half meters tall. The name Yeti means “magical creature” in the Tibetan language. Some people have called the creature, The Abominable Snowman or Sasquatch.

Creatures like the Yeti are known as cryptids. A cryptid is an animal that some people say exists, although there is no strong evidence that it does. There can be what is called “circumstantial evidence,” like unconfirmed sightings that cryptids exist. Yet scientific proof is lacking.

Other cryptids are Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot in North America, and central Africa’s dinosaur-like Mokele Mbembe.

BOB DOUGHTY: Researchers from the Collateral Hominid Project have appealed to individuals and organizations who say Yetis exist. They want to examine organic remains said to belong to the creature. The scientists say they are especially interested in testing pieces of hair. They plan to use recently-developed methods for studying DNA -- deoxyribonucleic acid. They say these methods produce clear results that cannot be falsified. They are planning to write a report about their findings and send it to a scientific journal for all the world to read.

In case you were wondering, the researchers say they do not expect to find any evidence proving Yetis exist. But they are promising to examine what is sent to them. They are accepting organic material for testing until September. The DNA tests are set to last from September through November.


BOB DOUGHTY: About twenty years ago, the mummified remains of a man were discovered in a melting glacier in the Italian Alps. The remains were said to be in very good condition. Tests showed that they were about five thousand three hundred years old. The mummy came to be called the Iceman. Scientists called him Oetzi because of where he was found. His body was frozen and mummified in the place where he fell after he was killed.

Over the years, Oetzi came to be buried under layers of ice and snow. But as the Earth’s climate warmed, those layers began to melt. In nineteen ninety-one, two Germans found the body while exploring the Oetztal Alps, near the border between Italy and Austria.

BARBARA KLEIN: Recently, European scientists announced completion of a DNA map of Oetzi. They said the map provided details about his appearance, his ethnic origins and even his health.

The details are described in a paper by scientists at the European Academy for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, and at the Institute for Human Genetics in Germany. Among the findings is that Oetzi was genetically at risk for heart disease. Yet the scientists say he was not overweight and probably was very active. They say this information is important because it shows that heart disease existed more than five thousand years ago. They say that means the problem cannot be blamed on modern lifestyles or customs.

BOB DOUGHTY: Oetzi’s newly-mapped genome also shows that he suffered from borreliosis, also known as Lyme disease. The scientists say this is the earliest-known case of the disease. They say it proves that the disorder was present in the New Stone Age period.

The scientists found that Oetzi was unable to digest milk products. They say he became sick after eating such products or drinking milk. They say this finding supports the belief that what is called “lactose intolerance” was still a common condition in Oetzi’s time. Yet his people were becoming increasingly involved in farming. And some people raised dairy animals for their milk. Today, most Asians and Africans suffer from lactose intolerance, but few northern Europeans do.

BARBARA KLEIN: The researchers believe Oetzi’s ancestors probably came from the Middle East. The ancestors were thought to have moved to Europe, as agriculture continued to spread. The researchers say few modern-day Europeans share genes with the Iceman. Those who do live mostly in areas separate from the European mainland, like the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica.

Oetzi’s DNA map also has helped researchers recreate his physical appearance. They say he weighed about fifty kilograms, and had brown eyes and long brown hair. He was about one point six meters tall. This was an average height for a man during the New Stone Age.

BOB DOUGHTY: A report on the Iceman’s complete genome is published in the journal Nature Communications. We have included a link to the study on our website,

Earlier studies found that Oetzi died at the age of forty-five. Examinations of wounds on his back show he was murdered. He was shot in the back with an arrow and left to suffer a cold and lonely death in the Alps.

Many scientists have noted the high quality of the clothing Oetzi was wearing and the fine copper axe in his possession. They say this likely means he and his family were probably important within their community.


BARBARA KLEIN: Finally, another study has found that most Neanderthals had largely disappeared across most of Europe fifty thousand years ago. That is long before our ancestors, homo sapiens, first arrived on the continent.

 A team of researchers says its findings dispute the long-held belief that Neanderthals were in Europe for hundreds of thousands of years until modern Homo sapiens arrived. The researchers based their findings from studies of DNA taken from fossilized remains of thirteen Neanderthals who lived in what is now northern Spain.

BOB DOUGHTY: The scientists say the Neanderthal human species had died off as early as fifty thousand years ago. But they say a small group survived for another ten thousand years in areas of central and western Europe. The results suggest that Neanderthals may have been more affected by the sudden changes in climate during the last Ice Age than had been believed.

The DNA tests showed that older European Neanderthals had a much-greater mix of genes than much later Neanderthal populations. Older Asian Neanderthals also had a much greater genetic variation than the later populations.

BARBARA KLEIN: The researchers say they contacted other experts to help confirm their findings. That is because all of their results are based on severely-degraded, or damaged, DNA. They used both modern laboratory and computational methods to reach their findings.

The scientists say they only felt sure of their findings after an international research team studied them. They believe the genetic information reveals an important and formerly unknown part of Neanderthal history.

 Scientists from the University of Uppsala in Sweden led the study. They worked with researchers from Spain, Denmark and the United States. A report on the team’s findings is published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.


BOB DOUGHTY: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was adapted into Special English by Christopher Cruise. Our producer was June Simms. I’m Bob Doughty.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. You can find a link to the Collateral Hominid Project on our website,

Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Benjamin Radford Goes Beyond Bigfoot Prints and DNA

Benjamin Radford, Editor of the Skeptical Inquirer
"The most compelling evidence for Bigfoot would be DNA analyses, since they are scientific and theoretically definitive." --Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of Skeptical Enquirer

Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer. He also co-hosts, with Karen Stollznow, Skeptic magazine's audio podcast MonsterTalk, which critically examines the science behind cryptozoological (and legendary) creatures, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and werewolves.

You may remember him from earlier posts such as, Top 10 Reasons Bigfoot is Bunk, Bigfoot Cousins Claimed in Many Countries, and most recently,  If You Spot Bigfoot, Should You Shoot Him? He is a skeptic, and one of the more fair-minded ones. As most of you know the term skeptic, does not mean "non-believer," Some skeptics would even put themselves in the "Bigfoot Hopeful" category. 

Last Saturday Radford reminds us that, although the Oxford University Study is making news, trying to retrieve DNA evidence is nothing new.

Read his reminder below with a vote of hopefulness in the end.


Analysis by Benjamin Radford 
Sat May 26, 2012 08:46 AM ET 

Last week researchers from Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology announced that they are seeking genetic materials (such as hair, skin, and blood samples) claimed to be of unknown animals such as Bigfoot. The goal of the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project is to catalogue and identify new species, including those long believed to be mythical.

Despite the publicity that the new project is garnering, this is far from the first time that alleged Bigfoot samples have been subjected to scientific testing.

NEWS: New Bigfoot Sightings: Proof Still Lacking

In 2008, for example, the TV show "Destination Truth" recovered what was claimed to be a hair of a Yeti (formerly known as the Abominable Snowman). An analysis reportedly came back indicating that the sample contained "an unknown DNA sequence," though the full report was not made public and the results were never published in a journal -- as would be expected with a legitimate scientific discovery.

Then there was the strange case of a finger long claimed to be from a Yeti, once held in a monastery in Nepal which was examined by researchers at the Edinburgh Zoo last year. DNA testing solved the decades-old mystery and debunked the Yeti finger; it was actually human, probably from a monk.

For over a year Bigfoot buffs have followed the saga of Dr. Melba Ketchum, a veterinarian who claims to have definitive evidence of Bigfoot DNA. Ketchum says that her research will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal any time now, and has released virtually no information about her allegedly world-shaking findings, reminding those who question her that "until it is published, I cannot discuss our data at all."

Last week in a May 18 Facebook post, Ketchum once again promised that definitive Bigfoot DNA results would be published soon, and "that all is well and things are happening as expected."

'Unknown' and 'Unidentified'

The most compelling evidence for Bigfoot would be DNA analyses, since they are scientific and theoretically definitive. However answers are not always possible; "unknown" or "unidentified" results do not mean "Bigfoot."

There are many reasons why a given hair or DNA sample might come back unknown, including that it was contaminated or too degraded by environmental conditions. Or it could simply mean that the animal it came from was not among the reference samples that the laboratory used for comparison. We have no reference sample of Bigfoot DNA to compare it to, so by definition there cannot be a "conclusive match."

NEWS: Bigfoot and Yeti DNA Study Gets Serious

In his book Big Footprints (Johnson Books, 1992), veteran researcher Grover Krantz discussed alleged Bigfoot hair, feces, skin scrapings, and blood: "The usual fate of these items is that they either receive no scientific study, or else the documentation of that study is either lost or unobtainable. In most cases where competent analyses have been made, the material turned out to be bogus or else no determination could be made."

Indeed, twenty years later, the situation remains the same. When a definite conclusion has been reached through scientific analysis, the samples have invariably turned out to have prosaic sources -- "Bigfoot hair" turns out to be elk, bear, or cow hair, for example, or "Bigfoot blood" is revealed to be a car's transmission fluid.

Krantz gave one typical example: "A large amount of what looks like hair has been recovered from several places in the Blue Mountains since 1987. Samples of this were examined by many supposed experts ranging from the FBI to barbers. Most of these called it human, the Redkin Company found significant differences from human hair, but the Japan Hair Medical Science Lab declared it a synthetic fiber.

A scientist at [Washington State] University first called it synthetic, then looked more closely and decided it was real hair of an unknown type... However final confirmation came when E.B. Winn, a pharmaceutical businessman from Switzerland had a sample tested in Europe. The fiber was positively identified as artificial and its exact composition was determined: it is a product known commercially as Dynel, which is often used as imitation hair."

The lesson? Even many of the world's top experts got it wrong; it was not human nor "unknown" but instead a synthetic fiber. Hair testing is far less of an exact science than genetics testing, and the fact that some alleged Bigfoot hairs remain “unidentified” is hardly surprising—and certainly not mysterious.

For decades Bigfoot research has been plagued by false promises of definitive, earthshaking proof of Bigfoot -- most of it creates plenty of publicity and hype but no real results. Hopefully efforts by researchers like the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project and Melba Ketchum will be successful. However they are only the latest in a long line of claimants -- all of whom have all failed so far. Can they back up their claims with solid scientific evidence, or will they join the ignominious legions of hoaxers and sincere-but-deluded researchers?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mainstream Media News Tour of the Oxford University Bigfoot DNA Genetics Study

Finally Oxford University has something to brag about; Bigfoot genetic research
We are proud to say that we broke this news first--after Jeff Meldrum announced it at the Richland, WA Bigfoot Conference. Technically, that makes us second to break the news, but due to budget constraints we fired our fact-checker (sorry Joe), so we are going with the first version. You read it here first! Dr. Bryan Sykes of Oxford University is conducting a genetic research on Sasquatch Samples.

On May 16th we mentioned Dr. Meldrum's Participation, May 17th we posted a Video of Meldrum talking about his initial meeting with Bryan Sykes, and finally we broke the official news to the world on how to send Bigfoot samples to Oxford University before the mainstream media did.

Some would argue it is hard to brag about scooping mainstream media, when Bigfoot news is your niche, but we actually find it quite easy.

Speaking of mainstream media, we have collected articles from across the globe in a single place, in chronological order (oldest to latest) So you can catch up with what the rest of the world knows about the Oxford University/Bryan Sykes Bigfoot Genetic Research. You'll notice we left out NPR, HuffPost and a few others, that is because they just copied and pasted from Reuters News. But rest assured this news is EVERYWHERE. By the way, our terminated fact-checker called in to tell us C|Net gets it wrong; Dr.Sykes is only interested in Hominid (Bigfoot) samples, he is not interested in Nessie. Great catch Joe, your still fired.
Oxford University to probe 'yeti' DNA
By Duncan Geere May 22, 2012

Supposed yeti remains are being put under the microscope in a collaboration between Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology.

The Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project has been created to try and entice people and institutions with collections of cryptozoological material to submit it for analysis. Anyone with a sample of organic remains can submit details of where and when it was collected, among other data.

Once a reasonable database has been collected, the team will select the most interesting samples (hair shafts are particularly desirable, apparently) and ask the owners to submit them for rigorous genetic analysis. The results of these analyses will be published in peer-reviewed journals.

A large number of cultures around the world have variations of the yeti legend, including bigfoot, sasquatch, meh-teh, almasty, migoi and orang pendek. Bryan Sykes from Wolfson College, Oxford, told "Theories as to their species identification vary from surviving collateral hominid species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, to large primates like Gigantopithecus widely thought to be extinct, to as yet unstudied primate species or local subspecies of black and brown bears."

He added: "Mainstream science remains unconvinced by these reports both through lack of testable evidence and the scope for fraudulent claims. However, recent advances in the techniques of genetic analysis of organic remains provide a mechanism for genus and species identification that is unbiased, unambiguous and impervious to falsification. It is possible that a scientific examination of these neglected specimens could tell us more about how Neanderthals and other early hominids interacted and spread around the world."

If you've got a yeti scalp in your shed, and you'd like to submit it for verification, you can find out how to do so over on the project's website.
Scientists Deploy Genetics in Search for Bigfoot
(Reporting by Chris Wickham; Editing by Andrew Heavens) Tue May 22, 2012 10:02am EDT

(Reuters) - Scientists are turning to genetic testing to see if they can prove the existence of the elusive hairy humanoid known across the world as bigfoot, yeti and sasquatch.

A joint project between Oxford University and Switzerland's Lausanne Museum of Zoology will examine organic remains that some say belong to the creature that has been spotted in remote areas for decades.

"It's an area that any serious academic ventures into with a deal of trepidation ... It's full of eccentric and downright misleading reports," said Bryan Sykes at Oxford's Wolfson College.

But the team would take a systematic approach and use the latest advances in genetic testing, he added.

"There have been DNA tests done on alleged yetis and other such things but since then the testing techniques, particularly on hair, have improved a lot due to advances in forensic science," he told Reuters.

Modern testing could get valid results from a fragment of a shaft of hair said Sykes, who is leading the project with Michel Sartori, director of the Lausanne museum.

Ever since a 1951 expedition to Mount Everest returned with photographs of giant footprints in the snow, there has been speculation about giant Himalayan creatures, unknown to science.

There have been eyewitness reports of the "yeti" or "migoi" in the Himalayas, "bigfoot" or "sasquatch" in America, "almasty" in the Caucasus mountains and ‘orang pendek' in Sumatra.

Tests up to now have usually concluded that alleged yeti remains were actually human, he said. But that could have been the result of contamination. "There has been no systematic review of this material."

The project will focus on Lausanne's archive of remains assembled by Bernard Heuvelmans, who investigated reported yeti sightings from 1950 up to his death in 2001.

Other institutions and individuals will also be asked to send in details of any possible yeti material. Samples will be subjected to "rigorous genetic analysis", and the results published in peer-reviewed science journals.

Aside from the yeti question, Sykes said he hoped the project would add to the growing body of knowledge on the interaction between humanity's ancestors.

"In the last two years it has become clear that there was considerable inter-breeding between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals ... about 2 to 4 percent of the DNA of each individual European is Neanderthal," he said.

One hypothesis is that yetis are surviving Neanderthals. The joint project will take DNA samples from areas where there have been alleged sightings to see whether the Neanderthal DNA traces are stronger in the local population.

As for the project's chances of success? "The answer is, of course, I don't know," said Sykes. "It's unlikely but on the other hand if we don't examine it we won't know."
Oxford making scientific search for Yeti, Nessie
by Chris Matyszczyk  May 23, 2012 10:20 AM PDT

There are those who believe that Yetis exist, most especially Georgians.

All too often when these claims are investigated, though, they turn up a gorilla costume and a couple of rogues.

However, someone is finally bringing scientific credibility to the search not only for Yetis, but also the Loch Ness Monster and, for all I know, unicorns.
Oxford University's Wolfson College has decided to invite every human being in the world to send in samples of animals that appear to be something of a mystery.

I am indebted to the Daily Mail for unearthing this massive development in human progress.
The brains at Wolfson College aren't doing this as a little side project. No, they intend the use the very latest in DNA technology to attempt to uncover what they call "cryptids."

You see, the minute you put a fine, ancient-rooted word to Bigfoot, it already sounds more scientific, doesn't it? Cryptids are all those weird, hidden beings whose existence has never been proven and whose legend has grown greater than that of Tom Cruise.

The project is to be run by visiting fellow Bryan Sykes and enjoys the quite luscious name "The Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project."

Sykes is particular looking for hair shafts. In announcing the project on the college site, Sykes explains the history of legitimate Yeti-hunting:

Theories as to their species identification vary from surviving collateral hominid species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, to large primates like Gigantopithecus widely thought to be extinct, to as yet unstudied primate species or local subspecies of black and brown bears.

So he seems utterly convinced that some of these legendary beings might actually be real.

Indeed, he added that this project represents humanity's first attempt to be truly rigorous on the subject:
Recent advances in the techniques of genetic analysis of organic remains provide a mechanism for genus and species identification that is unbiased, unambiguous and impervious to falsification.

Many of you are of a rigorous bent and perhaps consider that you've seen something weird in your neighborhood at least once or twice.

So if you'd like to send a specimen to Sykes and his team, here are where the details of the project are to be found.

It has always been my ambition to write the headline: "Yeti found." Even better, though, would be "Yeti found at Oxford University." Or even: "Yeti Found in Congress."
by Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor | Tue May 22, 2012 02:18 PM ET

A call is out for supposed Big Foot material so university scientists can do genetic testing.


  • Scientists have requested that cryptozoologists send them material supposedly from cryptic species.
  • They plan to conduct genetic analysis of the material.
  • The call is a challenge to those who claim that science simply rejects such claims.

A new university-backed project aims to investigate cryptic species such as the yeti whose existence is unproven, through genetic testing.

Researchers from Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology are asking anyone with a collection of cryptozoological material to submit descriptions of it. The researchers will then ask for hair and other samples for genetic identification.

"I'm challenging and inviting the cryptozoologists to come up with the evidence instead of complaining that science is rejecting what they have to say," said geneticist Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford.

While Sykes doesn't expect to find solid evidence of a yeti or Bigfoot monster, he says he is keeping an open mind and hopes to identify perhaps 20 of the suspect samples. Along the way, he'd be happy if he found some unknown species. (Rumor or Reality: The Creatures of Cryptozoology)

"It would be wonderful if one or more turned out to be species we don't know about, maybe primates, maybe even collateral hominids," Sykes told LiveScience. Such hominids would include Neanderthals or Denosivans, a mysterious hominin species that lived in Siberia 40,000 years ago.

"That would be the optimal outcome," Sykes said.

The project is called the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project. It is being led by Sykes and Michel Sartori of the zoology museum.

Origin of a Legend

The story of a big hairy monster of the Himalayas stomped into popular culture in 1951, when British mountaineer Eric Shipton returned from a Mount Everest expedition with photographs of giant footprints in the snow.

The cryptic creature goes by many names in many places: yeti or migoi in the Himalayas, Bigfoot or sasquatch in the United States and Canada, respectively; almasty in the Caucasus Mountains; orag pendek in Sumatra. (Infographic: Tracking Belief in Bigfoot)

And while reports of such creatures have abounded around the world since then, there is no real proof they exist; the reports inevitably turn out to be of a civet, bear or other known beast.

Yeti hairs

Sykes doesn't want to start receiving loads of skin, hair and other samples haphazardly, so he is asking people to send detailed descriptions of their "yeti" samples.

Once he and his colleagues have looked over the details — including physical descriptions of the sample (even photographs), its origin and ideas about the likely species it belongs to — they will send a sampling kit for those that are deemed suitable for study.

"As an academic I have certain reservations about entering this field, but I think using genetic analysis is entirely objective; it can't be falsified," Sykes said. "So I don't have to put myself into the position of either believing or disbelieving these creatures."

One theory about the yeti is that it belongs to small relic populations of other hominids, such as Neanderthals or Denisovans. While Sykes said this idea is unlikely to be proven true, "if you don't look, you won't find it."

The collection phase of the project will run through September, with genetic testing following that through November. After that, Sykes said, they will write up the results for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal; this would be the first such publication of cryptozoology results, he said.

"Several things I've done in my career have seemed impossible and stupid when contemplated, but have impressive results," Sykes said. When he set out to find DNA from ancient human remains, for instance, he thought, "It's never going to work." It did, and he published the first report of DNA from ancient human bones in the journal Nature in 1989.
Wanted: Bigfoot hair samples sought by European scientists to see if mythical creature exists
By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 9:32 AM

LONDON — European researchers are planning to use new techniques to analyze DNA that could help crack the mystery of whether Bigfoot exists.

In a project announced this week, Oxford University and Lausanne Museum of Zoology scientists appealed to museums, scientists and Yeti aficionados to share hair samples thought to be from the mythical ape-like creature.

New genetic tests will be done on just a few strands of hair and should be completed within weeks. Even if the sample is judged to come from an unknown species, scientists should be able to tell how closely it is related to other species, including apes or humans.

Bryan Sykes of Oxford University said the group had already received many offers of samples to test, including blood, hair, and items supposedly chewed by Bigfoot. Sykes and colleagues plan to sift through the samples for the next few months before deciding which specimens to test. They will then publish their results in a peer-reviewed journal.

Other experts agreed recent advances made in DNA testing could theoretically solve the Bigfoot question.

“If the Yeti is real and somebody has found bits of their hair, you should be able to tell from the DNA in the hair if this is actually a Yeti,” said Mark Thomas, a professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London. He is not connected to the Bigfoot project.

But Thomas was unsure how likely it was anyone might have actual Yeti hairs. Some scientists theorize Yetis are either a distinct hominid species, or a mix between homo sapiens and Neanderthals or other species. There is already evidence of interbreeding between homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

“If Yetis have survived for the last 30,000 years, they have probably had a pretty miserable existence and are a small population vulnerable to extinction,” Thomas said. “It’s not as insane an idea as many might think, but the chances are pretty small.”

Sykes said he has always been intrigued by stories of Yeti sightings, but would rely on science rather than such tales to prove if the stories are credible. “It’s not really possible to fabricate DNA evidence,” he said.

He acknowledged that the chances of proving the existence of a new Yeti species are low, but said that the study was still worthwhile. “If we don’t look, we’ll never find out,” he said.

Bigfoot is a legendary giant, hairy, ape-like beast that is variously known as Sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman, Yeti and other names. It supposedly lives in heavily forested or snowy mountains. Although most scientists don’t believe in the beast’s existence, decades of eyewitness reports, suggestive photos and stories have kept the legend alive.

David Frayer, a professor of biological anthropology at Kansas University, told The Associated Press in an email that “No serious scientist (would) treat Yeti as a worthy research project.”

He said previous tests on supposed Yeti hairs have already been done — “and they turned out to be from a bison.”
Scientists Seek Big Genes of Bigfoot
Published May 22,

Can science unravel one of life’s enduring mysteries?

Rumors of the hairy humanoid known variously as the yeti, bigfoot and sasquatch have persisted for decades, despite little hard evidence beyond grainy photographs and plaster casts of giant footprints. Now scientists are hoping to make more of a case for the creature -- with the help of genetic testing, Reuters reported.

The Lausanne Museum of Zoology in Switzerland together with prestigious Oxford University said Tuesday, May 22, that they will together use DNA testing to examine organic remains that some claim belong to the beast.

'There have been DNA tests done on alleged yetis but since then the testing techniques have improved a lot.'
- Bryan Sykes at Oxford's Wolfson College

"It's an area that any serious academic ventures into with a deal of trepidation ... it's full of eccentric and downright misleading reports," Bryan Sykes at Oxford's Wolfson College told Reuters.

Lausanne has an archive of such organic material assembled by researcher Bernard Heuvelmans, the news agency reported. Heuvelmans sought the yeti for over 50 years until his death in 2001.

"There have been DNA tests done on alleged yetis and other such things but since then the testing techniques, particularly on hair, have improved a lot due to advances in forensic science," Sykes said.
Despite the lack of hard evidence, Bigfoot believers are steadfast in their conviction that somewhere out there lurks a giant hominoid that simply has eluded all efforts to track it down.

"I have been immersed in Sasquatch research for a number of years, and I can tell you in my mind a mountain of evidence supports the existence of these creatures," Ken Gerhard, a San Antonio cryptozoologist who co-wrote "Monsters of Texas," recently told the Houston Chronicle.

Ogopogo: The world's second best-known lake monster after Scotland's Nessie, captured recently on a grainy cell phone video.

Montauk Monster: Some speculated it was an escaped mutant. Others thought it was an alien. Or was it just a raccoon?

The Carolina Critter: A bizarre creature that washed ashore last week in Folly Beach, S.C., sparked speculation of sea monsters.

Gerhard, who also heads up the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization, said Texas has one of the nation’s highest incidents of bigfoot reports, outranked only by Washington, California, Oregon, Ohio and Florida.

Bigfoot hit the headlines earlier this month when an Oregon fan discovered that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Association regulations would make it legal for a hunter to kill the mythical creature.
Despite the fact that chief of staff Lt. David. Sinclair told that he never mentioned bigfoot specifically, Texas law does seem clear; if Bigfoot is indigenous to Texas, it can be killed there.
So is Bigfoot a Longhorn? Absolutely, said Brian Brown, media coordinator for the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy.

“We’ve got hundreds of sightings going back decades. I don’t think we’d have any problem proving it’s indigenous. We think they’re all over the region,” Brown told

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Its Official, Oxford University's Bryan Sykes is asking for Bigfoot DNA Samples

Bryan Sykes from Oxford University wants your Bigfoot DNA samples 
The information below is from the Oxford University website. not only does it have an official timeline, including publication date but also how to submit your Bigfoot evidence to Bryan Sykes of Oxford University.

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.

The project is divided into three phases.

SAMPLE SUBMISSION PHASE        May – September 2012
DNA ANALYSIS PHASE            September – November 2012
PUBLICATION PHASE            November – December 2012

Sample submissions are invited from institutions and individuals. In the first instance, please send details of the material you would like to submit to one of the Principal Investigators. These should include:

·    Your name, institutional affiliation (if any), postal and email addresses and other contact details. 
·    A physical description of the specimen: (Hair, tooth etc). Photographs welcome.
·    Its provenance: A short account of the origin of the sample, when and where (with coordinates if known) it was collected and how it came to be in your possession.
·    Identification: Your opinion of its likely species identification, and your reasons.
·    Authority: A statement that you are entitled to send the specimen for analysis and that we have permission to publish the results.

In order to avoid misidentification of samples due to contamination, our preferred material is hair, although tissues will be considered.

After reviewing your submission, we will send you a sampling kit with instructions. Please do not send any materials without first hearing from us. They will not be analysed nor returned.

You may choose whether to be identified as the donor of the sample, or to remain anonymous.

At the end of the submission phase, the most promising samples will be selected for DNA analysis. You will not be charged for the analysis. Unselected samples will be returned. 

The process of DNA analysis is destructive. Any unused material from selected samples will be returned or, if you prefer, will be submitted for curation as part of the Bernard Heuvelmans Cryptozoology archive in Lausanne. 

Results from DNA analysis will be prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed science journal. No results will be released until any embargoes on publication have passed. 


Prof. Bryan Sykes                        
Professor of Human Genetics                    
Wolfson College                        
University of Oxford                        
Oxford OX2 6UD                        
United Kingdom                                   
Dr. Michel Sartori
Musee de Zoologie
Palais de Rumine
Place de Riponne 6
CH-1014 Lausanne

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