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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two New Peer-reviewed Papers are at Odds with Ketchum et al. Conclusions

“The above commonly reported traits, as well as other scientific evidence lending credence to the existence of Sasquatch, have been thoroughly researched and documented in both books and in peer reviewed manuscripts. refs.4-13”  (Ketchum et al., 2013)

Peer review is the process by which journal articles are reviewed by experts prior to publication.  Reviewers are selected by the editor of the journal for their proven expertise in the relevant area, and their identity is kept anonymous. Their criticisms and suggestions are forwarded to the author for consideration and possible revision of the manuscript.  It’s not a perfect system, but it greatly reduces the number of scurrilous publications, honest errors, and unclear narratives.  Recall that Ketchum et al. (2013) failed peer review in two journals before being self-published.

Recently I had published two, peer-reviewed papers (Hart, 2016a, 2016b).  “Not Finding Bigfoot in DNA” made it to Volume 4 (pp. 39-51) of The Journal of Cryptozoology, a publication of the Center for Fortean Zoology, edited by Dr. Karl Shuker.  Zoologist Shuker is well known for his many books and blog articles on cryptozoology – the study of animals not (yet) proven to exist by science.  My paper addresses the three nuclear DNA sequences published by Ketchum et al. (2013), said by them to be “a novel mosaic pattern of nuclear DNA comprising novel sequences that are related to primates interspersed with sequences that are closely homologous to humans.“  As proven in my previous blogs, this claim is false:  the sequences are from a bear (S26), a human (S31), and a dog (S140), with no significant traces of other primates.  I review the five different approaches to producing realistic phylotrees* of S26 and S140 that clearly show the samples are related to bears and dogs, respectively.   In contrast, Ketchum phylotrees for S31 (their Supp. Fig. 5) and S140 (their Supp. Fig. 6) showed homology to mice, chicken, and fish, not at all in support of their conclusion above.   Volume 4 of the Journal of Crypozoology is available from
My second paper, “DNA as Evidence for the Existence of Relict Hominoids,” is a review of known publications related to DNA of purported cryptid hominoids, and can be downloaded free from:, the Relict Hominoid Inquiry website of Prof. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho State.  Meldrum’s specialty is anatomy, especially primate bipedal motion, and he has studied hundreds of purported sasquatch footprint casts in great detail, the great majority of which he sees as evidence for the existence of a large North American primate.

Finally, one of the criteria for publication in peer-reviewed journals is that the references are authentic and support the statements in the text to which they are appended.  Some journals require that the author certify this.  Padding of references to give the appearance of command of the literature is explicitly discouraged.  References 5 (Malinkovitch et al., 2004) and 6 (Coltman and Davis, 2006) of Ketchum et al. (2013), both with titles in apparent support of the Ketchum et al. (2013) claim quoted at the beginning of this blog, are anything but supportive, if one bothers to read them.  Both references are reviewed in my second paper.

The Milinkovitch et al. (2004) paper has an admitted April Fool’s joke title.  The Himalayan hair sample was found to be from a horse, nothing close to a primate.  Their phylotree shows this clearly.

Coltman and Davis (2006) matched the DNA of a Yukon hair to the American bison exactly, in spite of their tongue-in-cheek title.   Their phylotree of related ungulates supports their conclusion.

Both of these papers are good examples of how an unknown DNA sample should be analyzed without bias.  Read your references, Melba.  You might learn something. 

 *  A phylotree is a DNA-based evolutionary tree of life with a topology determined by degree of match (distance – or % of matching base pairs in homologous DNA sequences) between the various species in the branches.  A phylotree is produced from the results of a DNA search, for example using BLAST® as both Ketchum et al. and I did.

REFERENCES  (Unpadded)

Coltman, D. and Davis, C. (2006) “Molecular cryptozoology meets the Sasquatch.“ TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution 21(2): 60–61.

Hart, H. V. (2016a)  “Not Finding Bigfoot in DNA.”  Journal of Cryptozoology 4: 39-51.

Hart, H. V. (2016b)  “DNA as Evidence for the Existence of Relict Hominoids” Relict Hominoid Inquiry 5: 8-31.

Ketchum, M. S. et al. (2013). Novel North American Hominins: Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies.“ DeNovo,  1 (1):  Online only:

Milinkovitch, M. C. et al. (2004) “Molecular phylogenetic analyses indicate extensive morphological convergence between the ‘yeti’  and primates.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31: 1–3.