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Bigfoot press conference yields little evidence, lots of scorn

The following is a post by Eric Vance, a freelancer for Scientific American, who sent us this story. PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA -- It was perhaps the most highly touted linkurl:press conference;http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=bigfoot-press-conference-an-early-r-2008-08-15 of the week, but it didn't reveal much in the way of evidence: Three Bigfoot enthusiasts announced today that a series of genetic tests performed on samples taken from a carcass they claim is a linkurl:Sasqu

By | August 15, 2008

The following is a post by Eric Vance, a freelancer for Scientific American, who sent us this story. PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA -- It was perhaps the most highly touted linkurl:press conference;http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=bigfoot-press-conference-an-early-r-2008-08-15 of the week, but it didn't reveal much in the way of evidence: Three Bigfoot enthusiasts announced today that a series of genetic tests performed on samples taken from a carcass they claim is a linkurl:Sasquatch;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/24461/ came back as a mixture of human and opossum. In addition to the mixed DNA results, Tom Biscardi, Matthew Whitton, and Rick Dyer gave the audience two blurry photos, one of a solitary figure in mixed hardwood forest and another of the mouth of what appeared to be the tongue and teeth of a primate. Nevertheless, they held to their linkurl:claim;http://www.searchingforbigfoot.com/ that the animal they are currently holding in "an undisclosed location" is indeed the legendary Bigfoot. The three fielded questions from a packed room, calling their discovery groundbreaking. "We're not Bigfoot hunters originally," Whitton said. "We stumbled upon this creature. It was a stroke of luck, I can tell you that." Whitton and Dyer said they discovered the carcass when they were hiking in a forest near their home some time in June and that it has been stored in a large freezer since then. They refused to say exactly where and when, saying only that it was in Northern Georgia and that they captured video of several live animals. They said when they found the carcass they hauled it into a truck and brought it to a freezer. They then set up a website to offer tours into the area and made an announcement on a Bigfoot enthusiast radio program. That's when Biscardi got involved and moved the animal to another location and began contacting the media. In the week before the press conference, Whitton and Dyer spent several days sparring with skeptics and uploaded a linkurl:video to YouTube;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMEsD3_J2DQ in which they held a stuffed bear up to the camera and repeated their claims of having found a Sasquatch. Meanwhile, Biscardi sent three samples of the carcass to Curtis Nelson at the University of Minnesota for analysis. In an email, Nelson told Biscardi that most of DNA segments taken from two of the samples matched human DNA. One came back as a likely match for an American opossum. Biscardi said this is likely from a stomach sample and that the creature might have eaten an opossum. He did not say why he had sampled from the stomach. Despite Biscardi's assurances that soon he would bring in scientists from Stanford University and journalists from Fox News to inspect the body, scientists are skeptical that the find is legitimate. "It's about what I expected," said linkurl:Jeffrey Meldrum;http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=bigfoot-expert-weighs-in-im-extreme-2008-08-14 , an anatomist from Idaho University who has studied the Bigfoot phenomenon. "Today they should have produced a physical piece of the corpse if not the corpse itself. Until they produce the body, it doesn't matter." "What they should have done is contact a reputable scientist and have it examined at a known university," said Benjamin Radford, who writes for the Skeptical Inquirer magazine and has followed Bigfoot hunters for more than ten years. "Instead, this whole thing is very cloak and dagger. It all about, 'We have unnamed scientists working at an undisclosed location under armed guard.'" linkurl:Meldrum;http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=bigfoot-anatomy said it's still remotely possible the claims are genuine, but that the group's behavior resembles previous hoaxes. He said that even if the genetic testing had turned up some evidence that it was Bigfoot, no one can verify where the animal was found. This was not Biscardi's first Bigfoot claim. In 2005 he claimed that he had captured a Sasquatch. The beast never materialized, and Biscardi claimed he had been swindled by a deranged attention-seeker. Radford says hoaxers make money off tours through Bigfoot country and documentary films - a motivation Biscardi doesn't discount. When asked at the press conference how much money he expects to make from his alleged discovery, Biscardi said, "As much as I possibly can." However, he said he will satisfy all skeptics when he releases the actual body. Earlier this week he invited Megan Kelly of Fox News to Georgia to view the carcass. Copyright 2008 Scientific American linkurl:www.sciam.com;http://www.sciam.com

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