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Finding Bigfoot: Everything You Need to Knowby ANIMAL PLANET
A howl in the distance. The biggest footprint you've ever seen. A blurry figure in the distance. These are the clues that lead us to believe there is something out thereBigfoot.
Already a fan of the wildly successful FINDING BIGFOOT show on Animal Planet? (One of the top-performing shows in the network's history!) Stacked with information for your burning
A howl in the distance. The biggest footprint you've ever seen. A blurry figure in the distance. These are the clues that lead us to believe there is something out thereBigfoot.
Already a fan of the wildly successful FINDING BIGFOOT show on Animal Planet? (One of the top-performing shows in the network's history!) Stacked with information for your burning questions, this heavily illustrated work features a compelling narrative with commentary from the stars of the show, photographs and extras from the Animal Planet's archives, and so much more.
Skeptics will be given all the information they need to decide for themselves if they believe, and enthusiasts will revel in this essential Bigfoot book.
Do you hear that howl? Bigfoot is calling.
Read an Excerpt
Everything You Need to Know
By Animal Planet
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2013 Discovery Communications, LLC.
All rights reserved.
DOES BIGFOOT EXIST?
THE CASE FOR CRYPTIDS
Some people believe we know everything there is to know about this world. People who believe every inch of land has been conquered, every drop of ocean explored. And while it's true that adventurers have made their way around the globe, mapping the edges of oceans and continents, the heights of the mountains, the depths of the rivers and lakes, it's also true that scientists learn new things every day. What's more, we find new animals all the time.
Since 2012, for example, we have discovered all sorts of previously unknown creatures, including monkeys, frogs, sharks, and lizards — even primates. Would you believe there is such a thing as a poisonous spider with hooklike claws on each of its legs? A group of people exploring a cave in bigfoot Country — southern Oregon — stumbled across this family of spiders deep in the throat of a cave in 2012. The Trogloraptor marchingtoni was the first family of native North American spiders to be found in more than a century.
That same year, a Louisiana State University snake expert named Christopher Austin followed strange chirping noises while he was inside a Papua New Guinea forest. It turns out a frog the size of the housefly, the world's tiniest vertebrate, was responsible for the singing. (The same professor has found several other species that hadn't yet been recognized by science, including other frogs, lizards, and parasites.)
There was a new primate recognized around the same time: the lesula monkey, a wise-looking creature with a grayish brown beard. This one was found in 2007 living as a school administrator's pet in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Researchers studied its DNA to conclude it was an unrecognized species. It's already endangered because it's being hunted for its meat. It's only the second new kind of African monkey to be recognized in twenty-eight years, and it might have died out before scientists learned of its existence.
While most of these newly discovered creatures are small or live in remote places, history is full of animals once called legend that turned out to be real. The list of animals known by reputation first and recognized by science later includes gorillas, giant pandas, Komodo dragons, bonobos, megamouth sharks, giant geckos, and the okapi, a short-necked giraffe relative.
Here are a few especially important finds:
THE GIANT PANDA
This fuzzy creature was unknown outside of China until 1869, when a French missionary named Père Jean-Pierre Armand David described one that had been killed on a hunt. Westerners have been enthralled with pandas ever since. Today, they're exceedingly rare; only about 1,590 exist in the wild. But they could be an incredibly important species. Early in 2013, a component in giant panda blood was found to kill deadly bacteria six times faster than other antibiotics.
This is crucial because certain types of infections have become resistant to drugs we already have. If you think of your immune system as an army, and the drugs as bullets, drug resistance turns those once-effective bullets into soap bubbles. The panda blood could be an important key in fighting those tough and terrible infections.
And don't worry — scientists figured out how to re-create the panda substance in a lab. They decoded a panda's DNA and synthesized the substance, which is called cathelicidin-AM and probably helps keep the pandas healthy in the wild. Pandas aren't the only animals that have these disease-fighting powers. The same group of scientists found similar compounds in the slime of snails and certain amphibians.
THE GIANT SQUID
The giant squid is a literary legend. Vikings told tales of the terrible kraken, a sea monster big enough to wrap its tentacles around a ship and pull it below the waves. The Odyssey, an ancient poem, has a scary bit about a monster named Scylla that may well have been a giant squid.
But these creatures aren't just legends. In 2004, researchers in Japan shot the first-ever images of a live giant squid — nearly three thousand years after Homer wrote the Odyssey. That's a really long time for people to know about an animal without actually seeing a live specimen. The squids aren't the size of islands, but researchers found one squid that was fifty-nine feet long with eyes the size of dinner plates. There's a chance even bigger specimens are gliding beneath the waves.
Another animal, the saola (pronounced SOW-la), sometimes called the Asian unicorn because of its parallel sharp-tipped horns, was found in 1992 in north central Vietnam. Since then, scientists have observed this animal only four times; and none live in captivity. The saola is so rare that it is considered critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
AN EXTINCT FISH–FOUND!
And then there's the coelacanth [SEE-luh-canth]. According to the fossil record, many species of this ancient fish lived between 360 million years ago and 80 million years ago. Then they went extinct, around the time that dinosaurs did.
This is why it was so very surprising when, in 1938, a self-trained naturalist named Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer found a coelacanth on a fishing dock. She brought it to a professor, who identified it by its distinctive shape and lobed fins. With that, a once-extinct fish was miraculously and officially back among the living, having somehow survived in secret in the Comoros Islands in the western Indian Ocean.
Equally surprising, in 1997, yet another variety was found in northern Sulawesi in Indonesia — nearly six thousand miles away from the islands in the western Indian Ocean where Courtenay-Latimer's fish was found. These two species of coelacanth are believed to be the only survivors of a once-varied type of fish, for now at least.
They're unique in many ways. For example, their skulls have a hinge that lets them open their mouths superwide. They also have a "rostral organ" in their noses that is part of an electrosensory system. This works like an extra sense, allowing them to feel electromagnetic energy (sharks can do this, too). And they have fleshy, lobed fins that have bones inside of them, sort of like limbs.
Bigfooters love to offer up these examples as proof that bigfoot is a scientific possibility. Like the giant squid of legend, hairy two-legged creatures have appeared in folklore and stories around the world for ages. Like the coelacanth, there's a fossil record for similar creatures (hirsute human-like species that walk on two feet). And, as with the panda, there are real benefits to finding these mysterious creatures, wherever they might be hiding.
There's a controversial field of science that specializes in the study of "hidden" animals. It's called "cryptozoology," a word invented in the late 1950s by Bernard Heuvelmans, a zoologist. The word itself sounds pretty out there, but its meaning is straightforward: crypto means "hidden" and zoology means the "study of animals." It's related to paleontology, the study of prehistoric life, and both use reconstructions and evidence to build pictures of animals that haven't been seen or are no more. In addition to bigfoot, another famous cryptid, or hidden animal, is the Loch Ness Monster.
IS BIGFOOT REAL?
The truth is, no one knows for sure, although many people have strong opinions on the matter. We can only be absolutely certain there is such a creature as bigfoot when we have found one.
Otherwise, bigfoot remains a theoretical possibility. A theory is an explanation of something based on observations, experiments, and reasoning. When formed with care, theories are scientifically valid — even if they are not proven, and even when they apply to things we haven't seen.
Take black holes, for example. These are spots in space, big and small, where matter has been compressed (this can happen when a star dies). The compression of matter makes for an incredibly strong gravitational pull — a pull so strong nothing can escape it, not even light.
No one has ever seen a black hole (they're invisible!). No one has ever been inside one. But we can form theories about their existence because of careful, repeatable observations that have been made. As we learn more about physics, we might someday adjust our understanding and definition of black holes. But no one calls scientists crazy for believing such a thing exists because there is enough evidence to make it a reasonable thing to believe in.
Scientists ask questions, make observations, come up with smart guesses, devise experiments to test them, and consider the results thoughtfully. And that's exactly what you can do when it comes to bigfoot. There's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism. That's how scientists get smarter. And open minds are the only ones that can learn new things.
THE ARGUMENTS FOR BIGFOOT
Plenty of smart people believe bigfoot is alive and well and hiding from humanity. What makes them so sure there's a bigfoot when others say there's no such creature? It comes down to four things:
Folklore. One of the oldest surviving works of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, describes a hairy wild man named Enkidu. Similar tales of a hairy wild man who lives in the forest are part of many cultures around the world. Ancient cave paintings in California depict a Hairy Man and his family, and stories that go along with them sound very much like bigfoot tales. If no such animal exists, why would these stories be so common?
Eyewitness accounts. Thousands of people in the United States have reported seeing bigfoot. People in Canada have sasquatch sightings. In Nepal, people claim to have seen yetis. In Indonesia, a smaller version of a hairy man-like creature that walks on two feet is known as the Orang Pendek. There's also the Australian yowie. Many people who've had encounters are respected community members, including police officers and judges, who have a lot to lose by lying. If they're not lying, what did they see?
Physical evidence. Although no one has found the body of a bigfoot, people have seen what they consider to be physical evidence. Footprints are among the best-known forms of evidence. The Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), for example, has collected more than seven hundred suspected Bigfoot prints. Many that come from different areas are strikingly similar in size and overall proportions.
Other physical evidence includes hair samples, some of which has not been identified as belonging to other known animals. Does it belong to bigfoot? We can only know for sure when there is a known specimen of Bigfoot to test against bigfooters have also gathered what they believe are blood and stool samples.
And finally there are twisted-off branches, animal carcasses with cleanly broken bones, and clumps of sticks arranged into sleeping nests, all of which are considered evidence of the creature's presence in the woods.
Photos, video, and audio recordings. There are photographs, the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, thermal video recordings, and audio recordings said to be multiple bigfoots communicating with one another.
When you combine all of this evidence, believers say, you have a compelling picture of a large, hairy, bipedal animal that lives in remote forests and swamps.
BUILDING A BIGFOOT FROM A TRACK: ZADIG'S METHOD
In many ways, bigfoot hunters have to think like detectives, taking bits of information they have to make a picture of the animal as a whole. When you go through a process like this with the natural world, you use something called Zadig's Method, taking signs that are visible and deducing as much information as possible.
Baron Georges Cuvier, who created the modern field of paleontology, observed that if you saw a cloven hoof print, you could project a lot of information about the animal. For example, it would be a ruminant, meaning it is a mammal that chews plant material, softens it in the first part of its stomach, and then regurgitates it for a bit more chewing. But that's not all.
"This single track therefore tells the observer about the kind of teeth, the kind of jaws, the haunches, the shoulder, and the pelvis of the animal which has passed," he wrote in 1834.
This is what bigfoot believers are trying to do, and many people believe the evidence of bigfoot that has been gathered to date justifies the continued search.
THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST BIGFOOT
Bigfoot has an army of doubters. Their best argument is that people have been looking unsuccessfully for bigfoot for decades and, lately, even using sophisticated equipment such as cameras that can detect heat. If there really were such a creature, all those dedicated searchers using that great technology would have found proof.
That's a hard argument to counter, although die-hard squatchers will tell you the evidence they have gathered is proof. But if we define proof of bigfoot as an actual bigfoot, dead or alive (preferably alive, for the sake of the bigfoot), then we are about eight hairy feet and six hundred fifty pounds shy of certainty. Likewise, a DNA sequence confirmed by independent laboratories would also work as proof. Unless scientific standards relax, which isn't likely, you'd certainly need a holotype — a physical example of a Bigfoot, a Bigfoot body part, or DNA — for an official species to be named.
There are other arguments, as well.
What does a bigfoot eat?
Some people say there isn't enough food in places like the forests of the Pacific Northwest to support a bigfoot. That would be true if bigfoot eats a diet similar to gorillas, which are believed to survive on large quantities of plants and fruits, with the occasional insect thrown in. But even with known animals such as gorillas, we don't necessarily know everything there is to know about their diets.
For example, a study in 2010 raised the possibility that western lowland gorillas secretly eat meat. The study found DNA in their poop that came from monkeys and duikers (a small forest-dwelling antelope). The gorillas might have hunted or scavenged this meat, the study said. That would be a new and surprising find. We do have to stay somewhat skeptical, though — a good practice for scientists studying evidence. Other things could explain the DNA in the gorilla droppings. First, the ants that the gorillas ate might have fed on carcasses of these animals. The ants had the DNA in their bodies, and when the gorillas ate the ants, they got a secondhand dose. Second, the monkeys and duikers could have licked or otherwise come in contact with the feces. (Yuck!)
The point, though, is that it's possible bigfoot's diet extends beyond the salad bar. Two other great apes, chimpanzees and bonobos, do eat meat. Likewise, bigfooters argue the creatures are omnivores, living on plants as well as deer and other animals consumed by predators at the top of the food chain, such as cougars, wolves, and bears.
Questions about habitat
A trickier argument is that everywhere else in the world, large apes live in tropical habitats. The Pacific Northwest and Canada, two bigfoot and sasquatch hotspots, are anything but hot when it comes to the weather. It doesn't mean bigfoot is impossible in such climates. But it does make them different from the world's other apes. There are primates that buck this tropical trend, though. The Japanese macaque, Macaca fuscata, is found in the same latitude as northern California. Those monkeys even survive snowy winters (which is why they're known informally as snow monkeys).
The agony of the feet
Many skeptics believe there are other explanations for the evidence the bigfoot believers have gathered. A huge footprint, for example, might actually be multiple footprints. If you stepped in wet sand and then moved your foot down and made a new print, you might be able to create what looks like a very long foot. When this happens, it's called a "double-stepped" footprint. Likewise, a bear footprint in the snow that's melted or sublimated (evaporated without melting first) might look larger than the original print.
A plague of hoaxes
Finally, bigfoot hoaxes have done a lot of damage to the cause. There are many accounts of people faking tracks well enough to convince experts, only to reveal the shenanigans afterward. Other hoaxers have frozen ape suits and dressed up in costume for a misleading run through the woods. The many high-profile hoaxes over the years have swirled like drops of black ink in a cup of milk, discoloring the whole pursuit for many sensible people.
BRINGING SCIENCE TO THE SEARCH
For bigfoot to become an official species, we need concrete evidence that can be examined systematically and thoroughly. We also need a theory that explains why, despite a lot of searching, no one has ever found bigfoot, a skeleton, or even a few remaining bones that once belonged to the creature.
Excerpted from Finding Bigfoot by Animal Planet. Copyright © 2013 Discovery Communications, LLC.. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Animal Planet's FINDING BIGFOOT follows a passionate crew of bigfoot experts who travel from small towns to remote areas of the Pacific Northwest embarking on one single-minded mission--to find the elusive "creature."
The four researchers: Matt Moneymaker, James "Bobo" Fay, Cliff Barackman, and Ranae Holland have been all over the U.S. and Canada listening to the legends and sightings. The crew has viewed tons of evidence provided by countless witnesses, all to support the hypothesis that bigfoot is out there, alive.
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