Genetic Testing Newest Weapon In Bigfoot Search

By Amir Khan on May 24, 2012 9:20 AM EDT

Bigfoot
Researchers are using genetic testing to determine whether or not Bigfoot exists. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Looking to put an end to the age-old question of whether bigfoot actually exists, researchers from Oxford University and Switzerland's Lausanne Museum of Zoology will perform genetic testing on any and all organic remains purported to be from the legendary animal -- and they're asking anyone who says they have evidence to submit it to them.

"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," Bryan Sykes, geneticist at the University of Oxford, told Discovery News.

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The legend of the Yeti first came about in 1951 when expeditioners to Mt. Everest returned with photographs of giants footprints in the snow. Since then, people have claimed to see the Yeti in the Himalayas and Bigfoot in the Americas.

While previous testing of organic samples have shown them to be human, Sykes told Reuters that it's possible the samples were contaminated and that there has not been any systemic review. He also said that modern testing techniques are much more accurate.

"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.

Sykes said he doesn't expect to find any evidence of a Yeti, but would be very happy if he discovered some unknown species.

"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. "That would be the optimal outcome."

One theory is that Yetis are surviving Neanderthals, Sykes said.

"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 told Reuters.

However, whether the theory holds any way, he said "The answer is, of course, I don't know. It's unlikely but on the other hand if we don't examine it we won't know."

The researchers are calling for people with samples to send in a description of their sample -- if the researchers deem it acceptable, they will send a sampling kit. They will accept samples until September, after which they will test and write the world's first peer-reviewed study on cryptozoology.

"Several things I've done in my career have seemed impossible and stupid when contemplated, but have impressive results," Sykes told Discovery News.

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