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News › Research Note: Comments regarding the identity of a hand of unknown origin
Research Note: Comments regarding the identity of a hand of unknown origin

Research Paper Research Note: Comments regarding the identity of a hand of unknown origin

by Alton Higgins, 14 July 2006.

As reported by Laura Michaels on 13 June 2006, Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi announced that he possessed what he believed was a Bigfoot hand. Photos and additional information pertaining to the hand were later released and widely discussed (see these two Cryptomundo articles and Bigfoot Forums).

Although bearing a superficial resemblance to a primate hand, the supposed sasquatch hand associated with Don Monroe and Tom Biscardi, ostensibly obtained from the Butte, MT, police department, is most likely the paw of an American black bear (Ursus americanus). Arguments in support of this view are outlined in the following comments.

1. In my opinion, the size and general morphology of the hand are consistent with a black bear explanation (see Figure 1).

2. The fact that the “hand” has been skinned, as reported by Todd Reese, an Idaho chiropractor, is consistent with a black bear explanation.

3. The fact that the distal phalanges are missing (Fig. 1) is consistent with preparation by a taxidermist of a black bear carcass.

4. Comparison of Biscardi “hand” metacarpal (the long bones of thehand) shaft diameters with the size of the metacarpal heads is consistent with what would be seen in a black bear and does not compare, in my opinion, with what would be seen in either human or gorilla hands. Figure 2a illustrates the similarity of the black bear and Biscardi “hand” metacarpal shaft/head diameter estimate ratios, both approximately 0.70, as contrasted with the ratio derived for the equivalent bone from a human hand, less than 0.50 (Fig. 2b).

5. The Biscardi “hand” metacarpal head shapes are consistent with what would be seen in a black bear and do not compare, in my opinion, with what would be seen in either human or gorilla hands (Figures 3 and 4).

6. The shapes seen in the metacarpal bases of the Biscardi “hand” are consistent with what should be expected in a black bear paw, and they do not match what is seen in human or gorilla hands. Figure 3 provides a human and black bear metacarpal comparison. The narrow base of the second metacarpal (the one next to the thumb) of the Biscardi “hand” (Fig. 1) contrasts markedly with the swollen base of the second metacarpal visible in the gorilla hand picture (Fig. 4).

7. As seen in the Biscardi "hand" x-ray, the length of the first metacarpal as compared with the second metacarpal is consistent with what should be expected in a black bear and does not compare with what is seen in humans or gorillas. That is to say, the first metacarpal in the black bear is slightly shorter in length to the second metacarpal, as contrasted with humans and the great apes, where the first metacarpal is markedly shorter in length than the second metacarpal. As discussed in this paper describing possible sasquatch hand anatomy, the sasquatch thumb may also be short in comparison with the metacarpals. In addition, the fifth metatarsal is more robust than the second metatarsal in the Biscardi hand and black bears, whereas the reverse is true in humans and gorillas (see Figures 1 and 4).

8. The v-shaped joints seen in association with the proximal phalanges are consistent with what should be expected in a black bear but not a human or a gorilla (Figures 3 and 5).

9. The same features noted as typical for human and gorilla hands in points 4 through 8 should also apply, in my opinion, with what should be expected in a sasquatch hand.

Todd Reese, the Idaho chiropractor who x-rayed the “hand” for Don Monroe, noted fusion of two carpal bones. I don’t know enough about black bear anatomy to state whether or not this is normal. From what I understand, fusion of wrist bones in humans does sometimes occur, so one might conjecture that similar fusion is a theoretical possibility in other primates. Perhaps a wildlife biologist, mammalogist, comparative anatomy instructor, museum curator of mammals, or black bear researcher could shed further light on the subject.

However, I’m convinced that the observations I’ve noted should in themselves suffice to cast more than sufficient doubt on the assertion that the “hand” paraded by Tom Biscardi is anything other than the pickled paw of an American black bear.



Figure 1. Comparison of black bear paw bones (left) with an x-ray of a purported sasquatch hand displayed by Tom Biscardi in 2006. The claws are missing from both images. The x-ray on the right shows that only the metacarpal remains of the first digit. One might conjecture that the proximal phalange of the first digit was intentionally removed from the Biscardi “hand” to increase the general similarity to a primate hand. Left image from Bone Clones.



Figure 2a. The black bear fourth metacarpal shaft/head ratio (left) is comparable to that estimated in the Biscardi “hand” x-ray image. The red numbers show estimated widths used to compute the ratios.



Figure 2b. An example of a fourth metacarpal from a human hand. The estimated shaft width/head diameter ratio of 0.46 is markedly different than the same ratio observed for American black bear and the Biscardi “hand” (see Fig. 2a). Photo by the author.



Figure 3. Bones from the hand and finger of a human compared with equivalent bones from the paw of an American black bear. The images are scaled to equalize the lengths. The bottom pair of bones represents the metacarpals. Note the differences in the shapes and relative diameters of the heads, or upper ends, of the metacarpals. The bases are also quite different. However, the relative lengths of black bear metacarpals and phalanges, with the exception of the distal phalange (containing the prominent claw), are quite similar to those of humans, producing or making possible a general impression of similarity with the familiar proportions of the human hand, especially in the absence of the distal phalanges (as seen in the Biscardi “hand”). Picture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.



Figure 4. Comparison of human (left) and gorilla hand bones. The gorilla hand is shown from a palmar perspective. Note the similarity of metacarpals with regard to the relative diameters of the shafts and the heads, as well as overall similarity of bone structure. Pictures from Bone Clones.



Figure 5. The “v-shaped joint” noted by Idaho chiropractor Todd L. Reese, seen in the x-ray he took of the Biscardi “hand.” The middle image shows a close-up of the proximal phalange; the left image outlines the edges of the joint. Compare with the drawing of the same bone in the foot of an American black bear.


About the author. Alton Higgins is a biology professor at the Department of General Education, Mid-America Christian University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73170. Higgins formerly worked as a research field biologist in Arizona, conducting extensive censuses of vertebrates. In addition to wildlife management coursework, he also took classes in comparative anatomy, human anatomy, mammalogy, and animal physiology. Higgins has written scientifically oriented articles pertaining to the sasquatch phenomenon, and has spoken at several prominent sasquatch conferences and seminars, including the 2003 Willow Creek International Bigfoot Symposium (Willow Creek, CA), the 2003-05 Texas Bigfoot Conferences (Jefferson, TX), and the 2006 “Bigfoot in Texas?” exhibit and speaker series, sponsored by the University of Texas and the Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, TX). A former curator with the BFRO, Higgins currently is actively involved in the research activities of the Texas Bigfoot Research Center and serves as an advisor with the Alliance of Independent Bigfoot Researchers.

Posted by Kathy.Strain on Thursday, July 27, 2006 (02:29:06) (13088 reads)
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