eDNA Proof of Bigfoot?

It may surprise you to know that I receive press releases regularly from the Discovery Channel. I rarely share the info because most of the time it is just alerting me to the start of their assorted paranormal-esque show’s seasons. However, occasionally one of them catches my eye, which is what we have here. Last week I received this press release from Discovery:

NEW YORK (March 3, 2021) – The EXPEDITION BIGFOOT team collected surprising DNA evidence while in the field searching for the most famous and elusive cryptid, Bigfoot. Throughout their two-month journey, the team – Bryce Johnson (expedition operations), Dr. Mireya Mayor (primatologist), Russell Acord (ex-military/survivalist) and Ronny LeBlanc (Bigfoot researcher) – used the latest in advanced technologies to narrow their search within the designated target zones, beginning in Kentucky and then switching mid-expedition to Washington State. As the investigation intensified, possible evidence that Bigfoot may be in the area began to surface – vocalizations, unexplained structures commonly described by Bigfoot witnesses and massive 16-inch footprints that no man could have left behind.

During filming deep in the wilderness of Kentucky’s Appalachian highlands, eDNA collected from soil under a massive tree structure found by Dr. Mayor and LeBlanc produced surprising and exciting results. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is the genetic material naturally left behind by animals in the environment. Scientific analysis of these samples helps generate a snapshot of any living creatures. This revolutionary new tool is increasingly used to confirm the presence of elusive animals.

“This scientific expedition may have finally taken one of the world’s greatest mysteries out of the pages of legend and lore and into reality,” said Dr. Mayor.

Miroslava Munguia Ramos, project manager at the UCLA California Environmental DNA program, has analyzed the eDNA sample from the tree structure. Following are her observations.

• “We received soil samples from your team and took a few months to get them processed. What we’re looking at are the unique organisms that we were able to identify. Our software does what’s known as metabar coding. So, it’ll match up all the DNA sequences that we were able to detect and try to cross reference them with the thousands of genomes that have been published and it’s pretty common that when we’re looking at environmental DNA samples, we detect humans, because there’s going be human traces almost everywhere.”

• “But what I found very interesting was that, yes, we have detected human DNA in these areas, but we’re still seeing different primate DNA. There wasn’t just one human primate, there are several different primates, some sort of primate relative that exists in the data.”

• “Pan troglodyte is a species of chimpanzee, which you would not see in the areas you’re at. It’s a real head scratcher. It’s important to note that the higher the detection, the more confidence we can say that whatever organism, whatever taxonomy we’re looking at was apparent in the area. And in this case, we’re looking at the Pan genus, or the chimpanzee genus…. there’s 3000 reads.”
• “The technology is constantly improving, it’s getting more accurate, and now it just really comes down to making sure we have enough samples and we’re confident that whatever we’re studying is a unique species.”

Dr. Mayor expanded on this unique discovery.

• “Finding what appears to be a very large structure, seemingly created with intention and requiring great strength as well as foresight, is interesting. It is not unheard of for primates to stack sticks or rocks, although for me, the jury is still out as to what that was. There is no guess work in science. It is great is that eDNA was collected from that site. That may give us the answers we are looking for.”

• “The process of describing and confirming a new species is difficult. DNA is absolutely essential in the scientific community to prove that something is a new or recognized species. You have eyewitness accounts from tens of thousands of people who say they have encountered Bigfoot, some coming forward with blurry videos and photographs. But that is just not going to cut it. What we need is indisputable genetic evidence to really put this mystery to rest. And there’s no doubt in my mind that we are headed in the right direction.”

When it comes to “big” discoveries, such as definitive “proof” of a paranormal creature’s existence, I won’t be hearing about it only on the season finale of “Expedition Bigfoot” on Discovery+. That news will be EVERYWHERE IMMEDIATELY. Now, that’s not to say that this isn’t interesting, and credit where it’s due, Discovery didn’t pitch this to me as THE proof. Still, I can’t help but feel like they want us to be overly excited about something that’s more of a, “Huh. That’s interesting,” type of thing.

If you are interested, “Expedition Bigfoot” is currently streaming on Discovery+, with the season finale being Sunday, March 28, 2021.

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