Friday, July 24, 2009

Cryptozoology (II)

Continuing on the cryptozoological theme that I started in an earlier post, there was much amusement at the Leiden meeting regarding a recent study by Jeff Lozier and colleagues on the perils of taking habitat analysis too seriously. Lozier et al carried out an ecological niche modelling study based on reported bigfoot sightings and came up with an impressively plausible niche model for this cryptozoological icon. Then they compared that niche model to one for black bears in the Pacific Northwest. The two models were statistically indistinguishable. Their conclusions were two-fold; first, most (if not all) bigfoot sightings are probably bears and, second, as far as ecological niche modelling is concerned, "garbage-in" may produce some very impressive looking maps, but it's still "garbage-out." Of course, a cryptozoologist would probably argue that they are missing a third hypothesis, which is that black bears and sasquatches have similar habitat requirements....

New Scientist's digested version of the study is available here; if you have on-line journal access you can grab the whole thing from the Journal of Biogeography site, here.

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