ROM Biodiversity geneticists have identified primate DNA that can not be linked to any living or extinct animal within the ROM, or any other natural history museum's, collections. The fragment was found during a Black Bear study in Northern Ontario over the weekend. Biologists place hair traps within Black Bear habitat, hoping that the slow and hungry bears, just awakening from long winter hibernations, walk past the barb wire posts leaving behind a few hairs that can be later analyzed at the ROM. DNA is extracted from the hair and helps scientists underastand the population dynamics of bear. Studies help manage bear populations in or near established towns in northern areas, which critical to sustainable hunting programs and understanding other bear-human interactions. A group of graduate students were out early Sunday morning, March 31st, and found what looked like Orangutan hair. "We thought at first it must be a large domesticated dog or perhaps a joke", saya lead scientist Alfred R. Wallace, "but once the sample was further analyzed late last night, it was clear that we had stumbled upon something quite new".
Indeed, ROM scientists may be the first group to isolate DNA from the mysterious animal known as the Sasquatch - a large ape-like animal thought to be a part of a remnant megafauna during the last ice age, some 12,000 years ago. Mammoths, saber-toothed cats and the Giant Beaver would have shared a range with this creature, says Wallace, but that it "remains alive and well" means that Sasquatch populations must have found what scientists refer to as refugia among the changing climate.
The entire ROM Biodiversity field team has converged on Timmins Ontario this morning and is working with local wildlife authorities to quarantine the area, some 50km squared. Wallace says that if indeed a live Sasquatch is found, it will be automatically listed under the Federal Species At Risk Act as "critically endangered".
More information will be provided this afternoon.