May 232012

Sykes has just announced the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project, an admirably open-minded attempt (in collaboration with Michel Sartori of the Musée de Zoologie in Lausanne, Switzerland) to systematically establish the genetic affinities of remains attributed to “yetis” or the other undescribed hominids purported to grace forests, swamps, and lonely crags the world over.

The certainty of being sniggered out of court, I suspect, would have made this project — at least with this big a name behind it, however skeptically, and with this seemingly ambitious a scope — inconceivable even a few years ago, but the unexpected windfalls of Denisova and Flores have, in combination with aDNA revelations about archaic introgression in modern humans, definitely altered the climate at least as far as Eurasian “cryptic hominids” are concerned. I, at least, am much more sorely tempted to see the ebu gogo tradition, if not Palaearctic tales of wildmen and trolls, as being underpinned by bonafide folk memories. The initiative will apparently focus on an archive of remains aggregated by Bernard Heuvelmans, the “father of cryptozoology” himself, but the sample submission window for other individuals and institutions will last until September 2012. After that: DNA extraction, preliminary sequence evaluation (just mtDNA at first, I presume, to prune out the serow and bears), and then — who knows? One can hope.