The normal microbial flora of Bigfoot
Stories of fantastical creatures such as Bigfoot continue to capture the American imagination. Reports come in frequently detailing otherworldly encounters that cannot be explained by science alone. Fragmentary sightings and incomplete evidence do little to bolster support for the existence of Bigfoot, however the recent sequencing of the Bigfoot genome and close-to-home encounters raise enthusiasm for some armchair conjecture about the Biology of Bigfoot. In particular, we can make predictions as to the makeup of the intestinal microbial flora of Bigfoot, and develop the tools in order to characterize these organisms.
Recently, York College Biology faculty and students returned from the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences annual meeting, held in Bradford, PA–near the epicenter of Pennsylvania Bigfoot sightings. YCP Senior Rob Harvey spent some time in the field looking for physical evidence, and has shared his experiences. His photographic evidence presented here leaves little doubt that something lives in the woods near the Pennsylvania/New York border.
The normal intestinal microbial flora of animals plays a critical role in maintenance of health, both by producing metabolites that might not be included in the diet, and by helping to prevent the overgrowth of pathogens. The flora of humans can change over time, as the interactions between our cells, normally non-pathogenic microbes, and disease-causing organisms constantly shifts. The types of organisms are also determined by diet in different animals, with strict herbivorous animals having a defined type of microbial flora, while carnivores will have a different flora.
The diet of Bigfoot can be inferred from the photographic evidence presented here; the complete dismemberment of the skeletal remains strongly suggests the makeup of Bigfoot’s diet. This in turn implies that the microbial flora of Bigfoot will have much more in common with the polar bear and the Komodo dragon than the domesticated cow. Further characterization of Bigfoot’s intestinal microbiome awaits biological samples. However, the scarcity of studies of the microbiome of carnivores tells us that obtaining samples is potentially dangerous fieldwork.
Rob will continue his field studies and will hopefully bring back to the YCP Microbiology Research Labs an elusive “scat” sample that will help us to characterize Bigfoot’s intestinal flora. We will use these samples for DNA isolation and Polymerase Chain Reaction amplification, using primers to amplify the evolutionary conserved ribosomal sequence. Amplification using eukaryote specific primers directed against the 18S gene will allow us to characterize fungal and protozoan inhabitants of Bigfoot’s colon, as well as to rapidly confirm that it is a sample actually from Bigfoot by comparing with the now-published Bigfoot genome. Amplification using prokaryotic specific primers directly against the 16S gene will allow us to characterize Bacterial and Archaeal inhabitants, which will help us to create a complete picture of Bigfoot’s unseen passengers.