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Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western North America - Starts With a Bang

Weekend Diversion: Where Bigfoot Dwells

Category: Random Stuff • biology

"You never need think you can turn over any old falsehoods without a terrible squirming of the horrid little population that dwells under it." -Oliver Wendell Holmes

As an astrophysicist, I get sent all sorts of (unsolicited) novel ideas and theories claiming to overturn everything from special relativity to quantum theory to the Big Bang. But the biologists get one very special type that I don't, that I was fortunate enough to have shared with me. This is not a case of physicists vs. biologists; on the contrary -- as the Be Good Tanyas might tell you -- this is what it sounds like

When Doves Cry.

Because biologists get emails like this:

I have been researching bigfoot in Washington and have 3 hours of video and castings of 2 different foot prints in the snow. I now have a chunk of hair I found on a broken tree branch. I need to find out what kind of animal it came from. It is about 3 inches long and like dry fishing line and there is some hair that is like a under coat or winter coat. You my think I'm crazy but that's ok because I know what I have and some day the world will know too.

Now, the only evidence for bigfoot I've ever seen comes courtesy of Graham Roumieu:

scan0001.jpg

But someday, the world will know too, and perhaps that day is today. Because today, I present to you the 2009 paper, Predicting the distribution of Sasquatch in western Nor..., from the Journal of Biogeography.

Sasquatch_paper.jpg

The science of ecological niche modelling basically allows you to take the combined data of observed sightings/collected evidence of the presence of an animal species along with environmental data such as rainfall, temperature, foliage density, etc., and create a computer model of where that species lives and in what density.

So why not apply that to bigfoot/sasquatch in the pacific northwest?

Sasquatch_fig_1.jpg

By taking reported bigfoot encounters (white circles) and footprints (denoted with big feet) and applying, among other things, topographic data (dark shading is higher elevation, light shading is low), Lozier, Aniello and Hickerson created an ecological niche model for bigfoot. Here are the present-day results.

Bigfoot_niche_map.jpg

Of course, one could look at the ecological niche models of other large creatures whose existence isn't disputed. Based on the same type of data -- encounters with humans as well as footprint evidence -- spread across Oregon, Washington and California, they also constructed an ecological niche model for bears.

Daaaaa_Bears.jpg

Well, that's (un)surprisingly similar, wouldn't you say? In fact, the authors have done the correlative analysis, and here are the findings.

Sasqubear.jpg

What does this mean? How good is this overlap?

The observed value of I = 0.849 indeed indicates a high degree of overlap, and falls well within the null distribution generated from maxent runs for 100 randomizations of Bigfoot and black bear coordinates (Fig. 3; P < observed = 0.32). Thus, the two 'species' do not demonstrate significant niche differentiation with respect to the selected bioclimatic variables. Although it is possible that Sasquatch and U. americanus share such remarkably similar bioclimatic requirements, we nonetheless suspect that many Bigfoot sightings are, in fact, of black bears.

Or, as even Bigfoot believers will tell you, you have to know the difference between a bear and Bigfoot so that you don't mistake one for the other.

bigfoot%20bear%20comparison.jpeg

Here's another clue: there's absolutely no evidence that Bigfoot knows how to dance. Bears, on the other hand...

Have a great rest-of-your-weekend!

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Replies to This Discussion

Brilliant!

What I like about it is the simple illustration of what a GOOD corelation looks like. 

The graph is very good, but the map is outstanding!

It's a shame that people hunt and can use dogs to hunt such beautiful and great dancing creatures.

The dancing bear is priceless!!
Made me smile... 

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