Tag Archives: Genetic Sequence

How Bigfoot Fits Into His Genes

Bigfoot still is a mystery, dudes. I know. It’s a bit shocking.

Especially considering all the hoo-ha a couple of months ago when a researcher claimed she had a some viable Bigfoot cells and was on the cusp of being able to sequence the entire Bigfoot genome.

You might recall, reputable scientists did just that a number of years ago, under the aegis of the Human Genome Project. We know where every single AGCT goes in our randy little genes. That knowledge should enable us, in the years to come, to delicately craft designer medications that will work best for you, or for that guy over there. Or maybe that dudette in the front row.

Handy thing, knowing yer entire genome.

Imagine my excitement when I learned that Dr. Melba Ketchum, a Texas-based forensic scientist and the face in front of the genome-sequencing effort, announced to a disbelieving world that she was getting ready to map the elusive possibly-primate’s genetic sequence.

Of course, the disbelieving LAME-stream science community poo-pooed the idea. So Ketchum and the others in her group, took their paper describing the Bigfoot genome and got it published in a scientific journal: the online De Novo . In case you don’t keep up with the scientific literature and find you don’t know the name of this journal, that’s because, prior to this paper being published, it didn’t actually exist. And the only paper that the De Novo ever printed was Ketchum’s paper on Bigfoot.

That’s right. Ketchum and her group purchased an existing journal, renamed it De Novo and then published their paper. A paper which: conclusively proves that the Sasquatch exist as an extant hominin and are a direct maternal descendant of modern humans.”

According to Ketchum and her group, the DNA shows a distinct speciation effect, showing that Bigfoot is not human, but a mix of human and something else.

So, yeah. That’s that. Case closed. Bigfoot exists and is the product of relatively recent intermingling between humans and some other primate. By relatively recently, of course, we’re talking tens of thousands of years. Geologic time, you see. Unfortunately for Ketchum and the rest of her group, there’s a whole bunch of scientists who don’t see it the same way she does, including John Timmer, the science editor for Ars Technica.

Timmer and other biologists looked at the samples and saw contamination of the sample, bad science and decomposition of the supposed DNA sample. In other words, it wouldn’t work. Period.

My initial analysis suggested that the “genome sequence” was an artifact, the product of a combination of contamination, degradation, and poor assembly methods. And every other biologist I showed it to reached the same conclusion. Ketchum couldn’t disagree more. “We’ve done everything in our power to make sure the paper was absolutely above-board and well done,” she told Ars. “I don’t know what else we could have done short of spending another few years working on the genome. But all we wanted to do was prove they existed, and I think we did that.”

Timmer has a fantastic article that goes through Ketchum’s research, talking with the good doctor herself, step by step and points out where things got a little wonky.

This is a great example of public science journalism. He’s not out there to make fun of Ketchum. He’s not some sort of rabid disbeliever out to debunk the “TRUTH” (notice the all-caps. Yeah, it’s that kind of truth.). He’s a scientist, a journalist and a curious man.

Go check it out. It makes for a fascinating read.

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Father’s Age Increases Risk Of Autism And Schizophrenia In Children

by Richard

In the first study of its kind to track the father’s age against incidence of autism and schizophrenia, it’s been found that the older a father is, there is a significant increase in the likelihood that the child born will have autism or develop schizophrenia.

No need to panic just yet, if you’re an older dude thinking about having children, though. According to the researchers, the overall risk for a dude in his 40s and older is only about 2 percent and there might be mitigating factors that are completely unknown or even unsuspected at this time.

So, sort of a good news/bad news thing.

It’s thought that the reason for this slight, but statistically significant, increase in the risk of children developing these disorders is because, as dudes age, there is an increase in the cases of random mutations in the gametes produced by his body. In other words, when we get old, our “boys” start getting a little. . . funny.

A genetic mutation can be either good or bad. Although, the spectacular mutation you might be thinking of (like telepathy or control of magnetism) is, so far, unknown, almost everything that defines us as humans came about as the result of a mutation. It’s the entire basis for evolution. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, a mutation is a random change in the genetic sequence passed down from a parent to a child. The child will be different from the parent in some way that is not accounted for by the combining of two different strings of DNA, one from the father and one from the mother.

But the study, published online in the journal Nature, provides support for the argument that the surging rate of autism diagnoses over recent decades is attributable in part to the increasing average age of fathers, which could account for as many as 30 percent of cases.

The findings also counter the long-standing assumption that the age of the mother is the most important factor in determining the odds of a child having developmental problems. The risk of chromosomal abnormalities, likeDown syndrome, increases for older mothers, but when it comes to some complex developmental and psychiatric problems, the lion’s share of the genetic risk originates in the sperm, not the egg, the study found.

While previous studies have suggested as much, this is the first study to actually find quantifiable support for the thesis that it’s the father’s gametes that give rise to the increased risk of mutation.

The research team found that the average child born to a 20-year-old father had 25 random mutations that could be traced to paternal genetic material. The number increased steadily by two mutations a year, reaching 65 mutations for offspring of 40-year-old men.

The average number of mutations coming from the mother’s side was 15, no matter her age, the study found.

“This study provides some of the first solid scientific evidence for a true increase in the condition” of autism, said Dr. Fred Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. “It is extremely well done and the sample meticulously characterized.”

So it’s basically nothing that should stop you from procreating if you’re an older dude (not like the idea of having to get up in the middle of the night for years even when you’re in your 40s should), it does give you something else to think about.

The more you know. . .

And to find out more, go head over to the article in The New York Times and read the rest. It’s some interesting stuff and they do get into it in a bit more detail than I can here.

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Ugh! Me Make Fire

Yes, all right, this has absolutely nothing to do with out stated mission, but I think it’s pretty cool. See, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that in the relatively recent past, there was another species of hominid living on the planet, side by side with out ancestors. I’m talking about Neanderthals.

Until about 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals still lived in Europe and Asia. The current thinking is that our ancestors simply out competed our nearest relatives and wiped them off the map. Not necesssarily through wars, but because we were simply better at communicating, talking, hunting, making tools, that sort of thing. We got all the good grub and spread out. The Neanderthals didn’t and died out. Simple as that.

Here’s the deal, though. Apparently, scientists have finished completely mapping the Neanderthal genome, mostly from bones unearthed in Croatia, and found that Neanderthals shared with humans the gene associated with speech and language. Which means they could have talked just as well as what we’re laughingly calling modern humans.

After mapping the Neanderthal genome, the entire genetic sequence responsible for everything that happens in your body, the blueprint for how you develop and what you look like and how you function, it seems we share between 99.5 percent and 99.9 percent of genes. They were more like us than we thought. Because these human cousins lived around modern humans, there was some speculation there might have been intermixing of the two species. However, the recent study of the Neanderthal genome suggests otherwise.

And now they’re gone.

There’s just something so sad and poignant about all this. To think of the last of a nearly human race squatting over a meager meal, the last of its kind. Huddling alone in the dark, watching with envious eyes as true humanity emerges from the night, grasping a firey branch that lights its way into the light of day.

And then that Neanderthal driving the SUV cuts me off and I curse his name.

— Richard

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