Planet Earth

Bigfoot, Lost and Found

By Anne CasselmanMar 3, 2006 12:00 AM


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Time to write an obituary for Sasquatch, the legendary Bigfoot monster who has been a pseudoscience sensation since the 1970s. The best-known Bigfoot claims come from Teslin, in the Yukon Territory in Canada, where locals said they spotted the hairy beast outside their windows and later reported finding his footprint and a tuft of his hair. David Coltman, a wildlife geneticist at the University of Alberta, decided to analyze the fabled hair sample using DNA analysis techniques. The verdict: It matched bison DNA with 100 percent certainty.

Coltman has his regrets about bursting the bubble of those who still fervently believe a giant protohuman might be lurking in the unexplored woods. "It wasn't fun answering the phone every five minutes for a week," he says. Still, he doubts that Sasquatch fans will give up their faith easily. "I've even had Bigfoot feces sent to me in the mail," he says.

Meanwhile, geochronologist Jack Rink of McMaster University in Ontario has offered evidence that Gigantopithecus—an extinct, real-world analogue of Bigfoot—may have crossed paths with early humans. Rink and his colleagues performed radiometric dating on fossil teeth from the 10-foot-tall ape that were found in Guizhou, China. He determined that Giganto, as he calls it, lived 300,000 years ago.

Although Giganto predated Homo sapiens, it overlapped with a human ancestor, Homo erectus. Three of the five caves Rink explored contained teeth from Giganto. Another nearby cave also contained a human tooth. "It's reasonable to assume that Giganto and humans would have come face to face in the landscape," Rink says.

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