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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This is a guest post by Shawn O'Steen. Shawn is currently finishing degrees in Theology and Psychology. Prior to this, he studied Anthropology and Fish & Wildlife Science at Oregon State. He has also studied Civil Engineering, Cartography, GIS, & Geomatics. Shawn resides in Souther Mississippi with his wife and 3 children.

 Neanderfoot? I don't think so...

Much has been written, and many hypotheses posited about the potential origins of the legendary Sasquatch of North America.  These guesses have ranged from aliens (Ruehl, 2012) to Biblical giants (Morehead, 2013), ancient giant apes that escaped extinction (Krantz, 1999), a separate branch on the same evolutionary tree that humans are said to have come from (Morehead, 2014), or perhaps a surviving relict population of some already discovered ancestral fossil hominin.  In fact, the Russian Almas in the Caucasus Mountains has been long suggested to be a relict population of Neanderthals (Shackley, 1986).
I have written this post in response to another blog post suggesting that Bigfoot in the Eastern U. S. are also Neanderthals (Drinnon, 2014), and are likely not directly related to the much larger Sasquatch of the Pacific Northwest.  Some of the reasoning behind this hypothesis is that Eastern Bigfoot seem to average less in height (around 7 feet tall) than their Western counterparts (around 8 feet tall for adult males), are much less bulky, and seem to have a flatter, more human-like face.  This information was gathered from a vast number of sightings reports from all across the country, after which the differences were noticed (bfro.com, gcbro.com).

Above sketch by Scott Marlowe from the site floridaskunkape.com. Scott is very
knowledgeable and has written many excellent books on a variety of
cryptozoological subjects.

I will demonstrate clearly why Bigfoot or Sasquatch-like creatures on the North American continent are definitely not Neanderthals by comparing the morphology of Neanderthals with Sasquatch reports as well as with modern humans, and then I will review what we know about the DNA of all 3 so far to further demonstrate the fallacy of this hypothesis.

First, I’ll describe, per the average sighting report (again, see bfro.com and gcbro.com), the average adult male Eastern Bigfoot:

1) He is 7 feet tall
2) He is 300-350 lbs. minimum (Shaq O’Neil is 7 feet tall and just over 300 lbs., and he doesn’t look overly massive unless he is standing next to an average sized person)
3) He has a 15-16” foot
4) He appears to have no neck
5) He is very massive with wide shoulders
6) He does not have an overly sized head for his body
7) He demonstrates no ability to make or use fire or tools, and demonstrates no culture that has not been observed in living non-human primates.

Now, I’ll describe the average adult modern American male:

1) He is 5’ 9.5” tall
2) He is 180 lbs.
3) He has an 11” foot
4) He has an obvious neck
5) He is delicately built compared to all other apes and ancestral hominins
6) His head is not overly large for his body, compared to other primates (Center for Disease Control, 2012)

Lastly, I’ll describe the average Neanderthal male, according to data gathered in 2010 from all the measurable remains available:

1) He is 5’6” tall, shorter than modern man and much, much shorter than a Bigfoot (H., 1998).
2) He is 160 lbs., much less than the average modern human, and less than half that of what a healthy Sasquatch is estimated to be (Churchill & Froehle, 2009).
3) He has a 9” foot
4) He has an obvious neck
5) He is massively built with very thick bones, short legs that are naturally bowed, arms that are longer than his legs but which are still short, wide shoulders, and wide hips, all making his body look very short, thick, and blocky.
6) His head is huge compared to his body.  He does not have a sagittal crest, but he has massive jaws, a thick brow ridge, a huge nose, and most obviously a massive occipital bun (back part of the skull) that extends rearward giving him a cranial capacity far greater than our own (O'Neil, 2011)
7) He is very adept at fire and tool creation and use, and has a culture demonstrating religion and art.
8) He carries a variant of the MC1R gene that is not present in humans, and which produces red hair and fair skin that is very sensitive to sunlight (Rincon, 2007).

The photo on the above left demonstrates how much larger the average modern
adult male human is than the average adult Neanderthal, while the photo on the
right demonstrates how much larger the skull of the Neanderthal is than that of the
modern human. Photos are from Mathilda's Anthropology Blog.
The above photos, all taken from Wikipedia Commons, demonstrate the great
difference in size and shape between the skulls of Neanderthals and modern
humans. Keep in mind that the skulls in the bottom photo are not presented at the
same angle. Note the significant prognathism in the Neanderthal skull, along with
the very large occupital bun. The top right picture shows a very good comparison
between the size and shape of the two species.

Now I’ll cover the DNA evidence.  Regardless of what you think about Dr. Ketchum’s study, there is no doubt that all the viable samples returned human mtDNA (Ketchum, 2013).  As a reminder, mtDNA is only passed down by the mother, so in order to have human mtDNA (other than through contamination) you MUST have a human female in your ancestry.  Many other samples that were tested prior to and after her study have returned results with human mtDNA as well.  We know that she also tested NuDNA, but that doesn’t figure in to this post.

NuDNA testing is expensive, and until the past few years it was ridiculously expensive, so all the DNA tests done on Neanderthal remains only tested mtDNA.  Based on those results, it was thought that we were not related to Neanderthals at all, because Neanderthal mtDNA contained NO DNA in common with us (later NuDNA showed non-Africans likely possess 1-4% of our genes in common with them, [Green, 2010]).  If you couple the fact that alleged Bigfoot mtDNA is nearly identical to human mtDNA, and Neanderthal mtDNA is nothing like human mtDNA, then there is virtually no chance that Eastern Bigfoot are relict Neanderthals.

That, my friends, is as close as we can get to the Null Hypothesis in regard to relict Neanderthals and Bigfoot within reasonable parameters (Zimmer, 2014).


Center for Disease Control. (2012). Anthropometric Data for Children and Adults: United States, 2007-2010. Waashington, D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office.
Churchill, S. E., & Froehle, A. W. (2009). Energetic Competition Between Neandertals and Anatomically Modern Humans. The Paleoanthropology Society, 96-116.
Drinnon, D. (2014, April 28). Eastern Bigfoot/Neanderthal Skull Comparison. Retrieved from Frontiers of Anthropology: http://frontiers-of-anthropology.blogspot.com.tr/2014/04/eastern-bigfoot-neanderthal-skull.html
H., H. (1998). Body Height, Body Mass and Surface Area of the Neanderthals. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9850627
Ketchum, M. (2013). Novel North American Hominins, Next Generation Sequencing of Three Whole Genomes and Associated Studies. DeNovo Journal of Science.
Krantz, G. S. (1999). Bigfoot Sasquatch evidence. Surrey, B. C.: Hancock House Publishers, Ltd.
Morehead, R. (2013, June 3). The Nephilim Theory. Retrieved from The Bigfoot Recordings: http://www.bigfootsounds.com/the-nephilim-theory/
Morehead, R. (2014, June 22). Bigfoot Evolution and Creation Hypothesis. Retrieved from The Bigfoot Recordings: http://www.bigfootsounds.com/bigfoot-evolution-creation-hypothesis/
Rincon, P. (2007, October 25). Neanderthals 'were flame-haired'. Retrieved from BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7062415.stm
Ruehl, F. P. (2012, June 7). Is Bigfoot Possibly an Alien Entity? Retrieved from Huffington Post Weird: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-franklin-ruehl-phd/is-bigfoot-possibly-an-alien_b_1578844.html
Shackley, M. (1986). Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch, and the Neanderthal Enigma. New York: W W Norton & Co., Inc.
Zimmer, C. (2014, August 7). Why We Can't Rule Out Bigfoot. Retrieved from Nautilus: http://nautil.us/issue/16/nothingness/why-we-cant-rule-out-bigfoot
 O'Neil, D. D. (2011, November 9). Evolution of Modern Humans: Neanderthals. Retrieved November 16, 2011, from EVOLUTION OF MODERN HUMANS: A Survey of the Biological and Cultural Evolution: http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_2.htm
Richard E. Green, e. a. (2010, May 6). A Draft Sequencing of the Neanderthal Genome. Retrieved November 18, 2011, from Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology: http://www.eva.mpg.de/neandertal/press/presskit-neandertal/pdf/Science_Green.pdf

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