Showing posts with label smithsonian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label smithsonian. Show all posts

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Smithsonian: Yes, We’re Actually Still Looking for the Yeti

Smithsonian picked this pic not us, we assume its a Mogwai-Yeti Hybrid
The Smithsonian is no stranger to the topic of Bigfoot. In fact, in 1988, due to a high volume of inquiries on the subject of, The Smithsonian developed a formal Bigfoot response letter. That's what a movie like Harry and the Hendersons (1987) can do to 142 year old scientific institution. (click the following link to read Smithsonian's Formal Bigfoot Response Letter

Earlier this year they blogged about the Giganthepiticus, and acknowledged it was the best candidate for the null-hypothesis as a Bigfoot ancestor. the Blog was titled Did Bigfoot Really Exist? How Gigantopithecus Became Extinct. the irony is Dr. Jeff Meldrum commented on the article, and his comment was more fascinating then the article.

Smithsonian takes up Bigfoot again, actually the Yeti, because that's the reference Bryan Sykes from Oxford University uses. Below is a decent piece on Bryan Sykes Bigfoot/Yeti DNA research, or as it is officially called, "Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project". If you really want to learn about the project we recomend a post we did earlier this week titled, "Everything You Didn't Know About the Bryan Sykes' Bigfoot DNA Research"

Yes, We’re Actually Still Looking for the Yeti

Posted By: Rose Eveleth 

Many scientists make their careers out of searching for the seemingly unfindable. The Higgs Boson, dark matter, the secret, hidden pieces of our universe. Other scientists search for things that probably aren’t real at all. Like yetis. Researchers are about to embark on a quest to determine once and for all whether or not Yetis exist.
That’s right, a Yeti hunt. It’s got a fancier name – the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project – but it’s a serious, scientific, Yeti hunt.
The project focuses on DNA analysis. They’re accepting submissions of samples from pretty much anyone who thinks they have evidence of a Yeti. People send the material in to them, where it’s tested for DNA. That DNA can tell them a whole lot about whether the mythical beast exists.
Now, there have in fact been DNA tests on supposed Yeti samples before. Every time they’ve come back as being human. But DNA techniques have gotten better, and the scientists are willing to give it one last go. Well, at least some of them. BBC Futures sums up the scientific atmosphere:
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.
One of the scientists involved in the project, Bryan Sykes, sees this as a catch all for those who claim science brushes them off. ““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,” he told the BBC.
This DNA evidence will certainly not be a nail in any sort of Yeti coffin. Even if they find no evidence whatsoever of the yeti, many will still believe. Last year, the Huffington Post reported that some scientists were “95 percent certain” that they had found evidence of the Yeti. Before that, bigfoot “researchers” asked people in California for money to test whether the creature left residue behind on a pickup truck.
Even the director of the International Cryptozoology Museum is skeptical of many of these claims. He told The Huffington Post:
“This does not seem to be any more than what you hear about from weekend excursions in North America that go out, discovering some hair of undetermined origin, calling it ‘Bigfoot hair,’ then locating some broken branches and piled trees, saying it was made by Bigfoot, and finding footprints that look like Sasquatch tracks. These are not ‘proof’ that would hold up, zoologically.”
But even for Sykes, the geneticist behind the project, this is all a bit far fetched. He’s not ruling out the possibility of a new species – we discover new species all the time, many of them quite large. But he acknowledges that there will need to be some evidence. The BBC says, “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.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Smithsonian: Did Bigfoot Really Exist? How Gigantopithecus Became Extinct

A reconstruction of Gigantopithecus. Image courtesy of Flickr user Sam_Wise
 " least one dental study indicates Gigantopithecus developed and matured very slowly—a sign they probably had low reproductive rates, which can elevate a species’ risk of going extinct. --Smithsonian
One our favorite places to visit is the Hominid Hunting section at the Smithsonian Blog. At Bigfoot Lunch Club we believe hominids and anthropology go hand-in-hand with Bigfoot research. Sometimes the point where these sciences cross paths is so stark that an institution entertains questions we (Bigfoot enthusiast) ask ourselves.

A reminder:  In 1988, due to a high volume of inquiries on the subject of Bigfoot, The Smithsonian developed a formal Bigfoot response letter.

Did Bigfoot Really Exist? How Gigantopithecus Became Extinct 
Posted By: Erin Wayman
 Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Yeti. The Abominable Snowman. Whatever you want to call it, such a giant, mythical ape is not real—at least, not anymore. But more than a million years ago, an ape as big as a polar bear lived in South Asia, until going extinct 300,000 years ago.
Scientists first learned ofGigantopithecus in 1935, when Ralph von Koenigswald, a German paleoanthropologist, walked into a pharmacy in Hong Kong and found an unusually large primate molar for sale. Since then, researchers have collected hundreds ofGigantopithecus teeth and several jaws in China, Vietnam and India. Based on these fossils, it appearsGigantopithecus was closely related to modern orangutans andSivapithecus, an ape that lived in Asia about 12 to 8 million years ago. With only dentition to go on, it’s hard to piece together what this animal was like. But based on comparisons with gorillas and other modern apes, researchers estimate Gigantopithecus stood more than 10 feet tall and weighed 1,200 pounds (at most, gorillas only weigh 400 pounds). Given their size, they probably lived on the ground, walking on their fists like modern orangutans.
Fortunately, fossil teeth do have a lot to say about an animal’s diet. And the teeth of Gigantopithecus also provide clues to why the ape disappeared.
The features of the dentition—large, flat molars, thick dental enamel, a deep, massive jaw—indicateGigantopithecus probably ate tough, fibrous plants (similar to Paranthropus). More evidence came in 1990, when Russell Ciochon, a biological anthropologist at the University of Iowa, and colleagues (PDF) placed samples of the ape’s teeth under a scanning electron microscope to look for opal phytoliths, microscopic silica structures that form in plant cells. Based on the types of phyoliths the researchers found stuck to the teeth, they concluded Gigantopithecus had a mixed diet of fruits and seeds from the fig family Moraceae and some kind of grasses, probably bamboo. The combination of tough and sugary foods helps explain why so many of the giant ape’s teeth were riddled with cavities. And numerous pits on Gigantopithecus‘s teeth—a sign of incomplete dental development caused by malnuntrition or food shortages—corroborate the bamboo diet. Ciochon’s team noted bamboo species today periodically experience mass die-offs, which affect the health of pandas. The same thing could have happened to Gigantopithecus.
A Gigantopithecus jaw. Image courtesy of Wikicommons

Further evidence of Gigantopithecus‘ food preferences and habitat was published last November.Zhao LingXia of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues analyzed carbon isotopes in a sample of Gigantopithecus teeth. Plants have different forms of carbon based on their type of photosynthesis; this carbon footprint is then recorded in the teeth of animals that eat plants. The team determined Gigantopithecus—and the animals living alongside it, such as deer, horses and bears—ate only C3 plants, evidence the ape lived in a forested environment. This work also supports the proposed bamboo diet, as bamboo is a C3 plant.
So what happened to this Pleistocene Yeti? Zhang’s team suggested the rise of the Tibetan plateau 1.6 million to 800,000 years ago altered the climate of South Asia, ushering in a colder, drier period when forests shrank. Other factors could have exacerbated this crisis. Gigantopithecus‘s neighbor, Homo erectus, may have over-hunted and/or outcompeted their larger ape cousin. And at least one dental study indicates Gigantopithecus developed and matured very slowly—a sign they probably had low reproductive rates, which can elevate a species’ risk of going extinct.
Some Bigfoot hunters say Gigantopithecus is alive and well, hiding out in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Other Sasquatch enthusiasts, however, point out this is unlikely, as Bigfoot is reported to be a swift, agile, upright walker—not a lumbering, 1,200-pound quadruped.

UPDATE: Dr. Jeff Meldrum , Anthropology professor at the University of Idaho responded to the Smithsonian you can read his response to the article below:

Glad to see the Smithsonian maintaining its tradition of objective consideration of the question of Sasquatch/Bigfoot. Gigantopithecus has often been pointed to as a potential antecedent of sasqutch — after all it is a species that is the right size in the right place at the right time. George York’s reconstruction of Gigantopithecus (pictured above) conveys the sense of the enormity of the ape, but it seems unlikely that a terrestrial ape would retain the limb proportions and suspensory specializations of an over-sized orangutan, if it ever even possessed them to begin with. Fragmentation of the Pleistocene forests might just as well have spawned novel adaptations as driven Gigantopithecus to extinction. The extremely sparse fossil record for this large and likely rare ape provides only a meager glimpse of its past range and distribution. As for diet, the recent paper pointing to a C3 diet and therefore a forest habitat is an important addition to our understanding. It really doesn’t lend that much support to the “bamboo hypothesis.” Omitted from discussion is reference to the analysis of dental microwear, which says something about the composition of such a C3 diet (Bamboo feeding, dental microwear, and diet of the Pleistocene ape Gigantopithecus blacki. Daegling, DJ | Grine, FE. South African Journal of Science. Vol. 90, no. 10, pp. 527-532. 1994). This pointed to a catholic diet most similar to that of chimpanzees, not the what was predicted for a specialized bamboo feeder. The characterization of a lumbering 1,200 quadruped (or biped for that matter) –”the size of a polar bear” — is misleading. I suspect few would want to challenge a polar bear to a foot race.
Comment by Jeff Meldrum — January 9, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Smithsonian's Formal Reply Letter to Bigfoot Inquiries

The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute with an associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States. Other fundings sources include its endowment, contributions, and profits from its shops and its magazines.

In 1988, due to a high volume of inquiries on the subject of Bigfoot, The Smithsonian developed a formal response letter. We can only guess the high volume of inquiries were due to the success of "Harry and the Hendersons" the year before in 1987, but that's just our amazing intelligence division connecting the dots.

Below is the formal response letter from the Smithsonian Institution.

The Museum of Natural History often receives requests for information concerning the "Abominable Snowman," "Yeti," "Sasquatch," or "Bigfoot," and other unknown creatures said to exist in certain mountain regions of the world, particularly the Himalayas, western Canada and northwestern United States. Though the term "Abominable Snowman" can refer to all these creatures, generally the terms "Snowman" and "Yeti" refer to an Asiatic creature, while "Sasquatch" and "Bigfoot" refer to North American creatures.

The actual existence of a "snowman" has not been definitely proven. Most evidence submitted so far is based on photographs of previously unknown animal tracks, unusual scats (dung), and some hair samples. Among the many explanations offered on the basis of the above evidence, one that has appealed greatly to the popular imagination is that the animal in question is a huge, human like ape, or possibly a surviving race of early man. Because of its terrifying aspect, the animal, supposedly of Himalayan origin, came to be called "abominable snowman"; it is this intriguing name that is probably responsible for such widespread interest in these creatures in various parts of the world.

Many zoologists who have reviewed the evidence have come to the conclusion that the tracks of the Himalayan "snowmen" were really made by bears, monkeys, or other already known animals. A few disagree saying there is little similarity.The tracks attributed to the Sasquatch of the northwestern United States are much more human like but of vast proportions (15-18 inches in length). With the large publicity the "snowman" has received in recent years, many popular articles of little scientific value have been written. Some of these are convincing to read, but they are mostly based on circumstantial evidence of "sightings," tracks, hair, scats, and some doubtful pelts and skull caps.

While most scientists believe the likelihood of the existence of such a creature is small, they keep an open mind as scientists should. One cannot prove anything on the basis of negative evidence, and the only satisfactory proof that an animal fitting the description of the "snowman" exists would be either to capture one and study it or to find undisputed skeletal evidence. Only these kinds of finds would result in the universal recognition of the "snowman" by all scientists.

Below is a list of references through which you can pursue this topic further:

Bryne, Peter. The Search for Bigfoot: Monster, Myth or Man? Washington, D.C.: Acropolis Books Ltd., 1975. (Summary of the evidence collected over the years by a "believer" in the "snowman's" existence.)

Halpin, Marjorie and Michael M. Ames, eds. Manlike Monsters on Trial: Early Records and Modern Evidence. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980. (Explores Sasquatch like creatures and summarizes reports of sightings.)

Hillary, Edmund and Desmond Doig. High in the Thin Cold Air. New York.: Doubleday and Co., 1963. (The famous Mt. Everest climber recounts searches for the "snowman" in the Himalayas.)

Izzard, Ralph. The Abominable Snowman Adventure. Toronto: Modder and Stoughton, 1954. (Concerns the search for the "snowman" in the Himalayas.)

Napier, John. Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1973. (An eminent primatologist discusses his views on the possibility of the "snowman's" existence. Concludes no "hard evidence" exists though allows for some "soft evidence.")

Sanderson, Ivan T. Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life; The Story of Sub Humans on Five Continents from the Early Ice Age Until Today. Philadelphia and New York: Chilton Co., 1961. (Sifts the accumulated evidence for and against the "snowman's" existence rather thoroughly. For a critical comment on this book see Carleton S. Coon's review in the January 1962 issue of Natural History Magazine.)

Sprague, Roderick and Grover S. Krantz, eds. The Scientist Looks at the Sasquatch. (Anthropological Monographs of the University of Idaho, no. 3.) Moscow, Idah: The University of Idaho Press, 1977. Collection of articles first published in Northwest Anthropological Research Notes.)

Suttles, Wayne."On the Cultural Track of the Sasquatch," Anthropological Research Notes 6(1):65 90, 1972. (Discusses Native American views of the Sasquatch. Article also in Sprague.)


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