Before Melba Ketchum’s DNA study, the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin film was often considered the best piece of evidence for the existence of Bigfoot. It remained the unrivaled champion of Bigfoots caught on film for nearly half a century. But an HD video of a sleeping Bigfoot reported in August of 2011 threatened to dethrone it.  Screen images reported by the media showed a dark furry body sleeping in a pile of leaves behind some trees. The original clip was said to be part of a documentary being shot by the Canadian-based “Erickson Project,” an offshoot of Ketchum’s DNA study.  A few months later in November, the Bigfoot was identified as a young female with the nickname Matilda. One source described her as “look[ing] something like a “Wookie” from Star Wars. She has dark, deep-set eyes that do not blink. Her eyes dart around though, and look paranoid and aggressive. They have a feral look about them. She’s basically a wild animal.”  A picture of Matilda’s face and a short clip of her sleeping were included in Ketchum’s self-published study. 
This picture was recently leaked online. Those wishing to see it should make sure they are sitting down. I would hate for one of my readers to pass out from shock and hit their heads on any nearby blunt objects. The faint of heart should proceed with caution…
(Fair use under 17 USC § 107.)
Kind of underwhelming isn’t it? Doesn’t look much like a human cousin at all. In fact, it looks more like a werewolf from a cheesy low budget horror flick. I kind of get the feeling I’ve seen it somewhere before, but I can’t put my finger on it. I think I’m going to have to phone a friend on this one, Regis. I choose the special effects artist Bill Munns:
Regis, my final answer is Chewbacca from Star Wars… So it turns out Matilda is just a Chewbacca mask punched with different fur. It’s undeniable at this point, but there are people still clinging to the notion that it might be real. Here is a Facebook comment from one of Ketchum’s supporters:
The desperation just drips from the comment, doesn’t it? This development casts a negative light on the Erickson Project. I agree with the Ketchum supporter; if it is a hoax, why would they use a mask of one of the most recognizable iconic figures in movie history? It’s anyone’s guess. The answer could range from a serious lack of forethought to just plain laziness. As I mentioned above, early reports said that Matilda was rumored to look just like a “wookie.” I think that’s too much of a coincidence. I imagine Munns’ discovery is going to hurt the project in their wallet. It no doubt ruined the project’s chances at selling the film to prospective distributors. No firm would ever want to be associated with a known hoax.
Not long after Munns’ picture was released, the Erickson Project went into damage control mode by asking Ketchum to remove the picture from her Bigfoot Genome site. She reported this on her Facebook page:
Im [sic] sorry to say the picture of Matilda had to be taken down. While she is adorable that picture is owned by Adrian Erickson. It was allowed to be in the paper only. That picture is copy written and licensed. Anyone distributing or posting it is doing so illegally. Adrian is a good person and out of respect for him we will not post it publicly . We advise everyone to do the same.” 
Ketchum herself never intended for the picture to support the existence of Bigfoot. She just added it in as “entertainment”—the icing on the cake, if you will.  But what if the picture was real? Would it have supported her findings? The answer is a resounding “no.” There is a very simple reason for this: the nose. When is the last time anyone ever saw a nose like that on an ape or monkey? There are living primates that do have a nose like that, but they are so distantly related to humans that there is no way they could mate with us and produce viable hybrid offspring. The primate in question is the majestic Lemur.
All primates are divided into two distinct suborders, the Haplorhini (humans, the other great apes, monkeys, and tarsiers) and Strepsirrhini (lemurs, pottos, and lorises). These two groups are believed to have set out on separate evolutionary paths around 60 million years ago.  Lemurs are classified under Strepsirrhini (“wet nose”) because they have a rhinarium, the same type of cold, snotty nose as your dog or cat. The moisture of the rhinarium helps gather scent to be processed in the olfactory glands inside the nasal cavity. Lemurs are active at night, so they rely more heavily on their sense of smell than other primates. Humans and the other great apes are active during the day and therefore rely more on their sense of sight and touch than their nose. 
This leaves three choices: 1) Bigfoot is some unknown category of ape that retained the rhinarium; 2) it is an ape that re-evolved the primitive feature; or 3) it is a lemur. The first choice is possible, but there is absolutely zero evidence to support it. Anyone arguing in favor of this would have to explain why an ape would continue to exhibit this trait millions of years after its fellow higher primates developed different noses. Another challenge is that related animals tend to have similar anatomy. If the creature is genetically close enough to humans to mate with us, why wouldn’t it have a nose like ours? The human nose is more similar to that of a chimp or gorilla than it is to a lemur. The second choice is possible, but, again, there is zero evidence for it. Most importantly, 15,000 years (when Bigfoot is said to have first appeared) is not long enough for a novel anatomical structure to form. Humans and chimps are separated by 7 million years of evolution and our body plans are not all that different. The third choice is also possible because lemurs have several traits in common with those associated with Bigfoot. Apart from the rhinarium and being nocturnal, lemurs have a luminescent membrane inside their eyes called the tapetum lucidum, which captures low levels of light and helps them see in the dark.  Whenever an external light source hits their eyes, it bounces off of the membrane producing the so-called “eye shine.” Numerous people have reported eye shine during encounters with Bigfoot at night.  But, again, anyone arguing in favor of a connection would have a hard time explaining why the creature would continue to exhibit this trait while humans and the other great apes developed a retinal fovea to process light during daytime.  There were also giant lemurs the size of gorillas that went extinct as recently as 350 BCE.  But anyone arguing in favor of this would have to explain how a quadripedal creature evolving in isolation on the island of Madagascar for the last 60 million years made it to the Americas.  Hmm…I think I’ll just stick with Matilda being a Chewbacca mask.
It turns out that George Lucas initially conceived of Chewbacca as a lemur. Ralph McQuarrie, lead concept designer of the Star Wars trilogy, remembers:
George thought of [Chewbacca] as looking like a lemur with fur over his whole body and a big huge apelike figure. I took another track, added an ammunition bandolier and put a rifle in his hands. I had shorts on him and a flak jacket and all kinds of gear, but that was edited out.” 
Here is an early concept drawing of Chewbacca from 1975. It looks a lot like the lemur picture from above:
The investigative journalist Linda Moulton Howe recently (2-26-13) appeared on the Sasquatch Watch Canada podcast to play recordings of the interview that she did with Ketchum on February 14, 2013, the day after she self-published her DNA study in her Denovo Scientific Journal. Early in the interview, Howe asks her which primate best fits the DNA profile for the unknown male progenitor of the Bigfoot species. Ketchum replies:
It’s headed a little more towards the lemur line, oddly enough. It is definitely not an ape. And it’s interesting that we found out there is an extinct lemur that weighed four or five hundred pounds. And also they have opposable thumbs and hooded noses. It really freaked me out that we had lemur. I didn’t expect that. [laughs]
She thinks Bigfoot is part human and part lemur. You can’t make this stuff up, folks! As I mentioned in my original post, lemurs have been evolving in isolation on the island of Madagascar for 60 million years. How then did one of the large extinct varieties make its way to the Americas? Most importantly, lemurs represent a more ancient line of the primate species. After the Strepsirrhini and Haplorhini (“dry nose”) separated, the latter group diverged several more times. The ape and old world monkey lines split from the new world monkey 35 million years ago (MYA), apes split from the old world monkeys 25 MYA, the great apes split from the gibbon 15-19 MYA, the lines that would become chimps and humans split from orangutans 13-16 MYA, and humans split from chimps 5-7 MYA.  Chimps remain our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99% of our DNA.  Yet, we can’t mate with them because of a difference in our respective chromosome numbers. They have 48 chromosomes, while we have 46 (the result of our chromosome #2 fusing at some point in our evolution). We can’t mate with lemurs because our genetics have changed too much over the tens of millions of years since our lines diverged. Ring-tailed lemurs, for example, have 56 chromosomes.  How then did this unknown primate with lemur-like DNA mate with human women 15,000 years ago?
The Bigfoot Evidence blog recently reported that an anonymous commenter claimed to be the person who wore the Matilda suit. Here are the two comments they left:
Anonymous Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 2:55:00 PM PST
I am the person that wore the matilda wookie suit. I signed an agreement stating that I would not talk about it, but that was years ago and I figure it’s run out by now anyway.
We got some hair die and colored all of the fur on the costume. Then we took combs and teased it to make it look more natural. There’s a lot more video than the few that have been seen.
Erickson knew nothing about it being a hoax, neither did that biologist girl. Dave was in on it though, he even helped me put the suit on. There were a lot of videos destroyed because they weren’t good enough and we didn’t want them to be found. 
Anonymous Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 6:12:00 AM PST
As I said yesterday, I was the person that wore the wookie suit. It was filmed in Crittenden, Ky. where I lived at the time. I now live in Grants Lick. I had to strap foam cushions to my arms, legs and torso, to fill in the suit. Dennis was the guy that filmed me.” 
The anonymous person seems to be shifting the blame from Adrian Erickson, the founder of the Erikson Project, to the project manager Dennis Pfohl (the “Dave” mentioned in the first comment is likely a typo). I’m not sure what to think of this. It could simply be a fake comment left by a troll, but it could also be real. But then this begs the question of whether the comment was posted to tell the truth or to take the heat off of Erickson by making Pfohl a patsy. I think the timing is a little too convenient. I find it hard to believe that anyone, especially the project biologist Dr. Leila Hadj-Chikh, would ever mistake the wookiee suit for being a living creature. If the comment is real, it seems like a cheap attempt at trying to salvage the project. Someone from the Erickson camp will probably come out in the next few days claiming that they had been fooled by a hoaxer. But then they will claim all of their other videos are authentic. Yah, authentic videos of people wearing wookiee suits.
 “Erickson Project: First Ever Photograph of Sasquatch Sleeping, Scientific Proof of Bigfoot to Come,” Bigfoot Evidence, http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2011/08/erickson-project-first-ever-photograph.html (accessed February 27, 2013).
 Robert Lindsay, “Interview with Richard Stubstad: Is Bigfoot Human?” Beyond Highbrow — Robert Lindsay, http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/interview-with-richard-stubstad-is-bigfoot-human/ (accessed February 27, 2013).
 “The Erickson Project Considering Pulling Out of Race? and Who Is Matilda? [bigfoot Rumor] (updated: Website Now Redirects to Godaddy.com),” Bigfoot Evidence, http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2011/11/erickson-project-considering-pulling.html (accessed February 27, 2013).
 My copy of her paper is a stripped down version with no pictures, but Ketchum’s comment on her Facebook page supports this. See note# 5.
 Melba Ketchum, “Facebook Post 2-25-13 at 10: 06 Pm,” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=552102348143500&id=359075637446173 (accessed February 27, 2013).
 “Breaking: Here’s the footage of Matilda [Bigfood DNA] (Updated),” Bigfoot Evidence, http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2013/02/breaking-heres-footage-of-matilda.html (accessed February 27, 2013).
 M. Godinot, “Lemuriform Origins as Viewed from the Fossil Record,” Folia Primatologica 77, no. 6 (2006): 459.
 Friderum Ankel-Simons, Primate Anatomy: An Introduction, 3d ed. (Amersterdam: Elsevier Academic Press, 2007), 392-94, http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=186062 (accessed February 27, 2013).
 Noel Rowe, The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates (Charlestown, Rhode Island: Pogonias Press, 1996), 27.
 For instance, see this online article.
 Matt Cartmill and Fred H. Smith, The Human Lineage (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 91, http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=819141 (accessed February 27, 2013).
 L. R. Godfrey, and Jungers, W. L., “Chapter 7: Quaternary fossil lemurs,” In The Primate Fossil Record, ed. W.C. Hartwig, 97-121 (Cambridge University Press, 2008), 101. For the date of extinction, see Russell A. Mittermeier and Stephen D. Nash. Lemurs of Madagascar (Arlington, Va: Conservation International, 2010), 37 and 39.
 R.W. Sussman, Primate Ecology and Social Structure (NJ: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2003), 107-148.
 Laurent Bouzereau, Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays : Star Wars–a New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), 44. It was quoted in this interesting article about the development of Chewbacca. The Animal Planet show Animal Icons did a Star Wars-themed episode where they talked about which earth animals influenced the creation of some of the film’s most memorable aliens. It briefly touches on Chewbacca’s connection to lemurs and orangutans. You can watch it here.
 Carlos G. Schrago and Claudia A. M. Russo, “Timing the Origin of New World Monkeys,” Molecular Biology and Evolution 20, no. 10 (2003): 1620-25, http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/10/1620.full.pdf+html (accessed March 1, 2013).
 A 2006 study shows this number is more like 94% when gene duplication and differences in protein function are taken into account. Nevertheless, chimps are still our closest relatives. See Jeffery P. Demuth et al., “The Evolution of Mammalian Gene Families,” PLoS ONE 1, no. 1 (December 20, 2006): page nr., http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0000085 (accessed March 1, 2013).
 Don E. Wilson and Elizabeth Hanlon, “Lemur Catta (primates: Lemuridae),” Mammalian Species 42, no. 854 (2010): 69, http://www.mammalsociety.org/uploads/Wilson%20and%20Hanlon%202010.pdf (accessed March 1, 2013).
 Vicki W., “Will the Real Matilda Please Stand Up?” Bigfoot Evidence, http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2013/03/will-real-matilda-please-stand-up.html (accessed March 1, 2013).
Ankel-Simons, Friderum. Primate Anatomy: An Introduction. 3d ed. Amersterdam: Elsevier Academic Press, 2007. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=186062 (accessed February 27, 2013).
Bouzereau, Laurent. Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays : Star Wars–a New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi.. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997.
“Breaking: Here’s the footage of Matilda [Bigfood DNA] (Updated).” Bigfoot Evidence. http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2013/02/breaking-heres-footage-of-matilda.html (accessed February 27, 2013).
Cartmill, Matt, and Fred H. Smith. The Human Lineage. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=819141 (accessed February 27, 2013).
Demuth, Jeffery P., Tijl De Bie, Jason E. Stajich, Nello Cristianini, and Matthew W. Hahn. “The Evolution of Mammalian Gene Families.” PLoS ONE 1, no. 1 (December 20, 2006): page nr. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0000085 (accessed March 1, 2013).
“Erickson Project: First Ever Photograph of Sasquatch Sleeping, Scientific Proof of Bigfoot to Come.” Bigfoot Evidence. http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2011/08/erickson-project-first-ever-photograph.html (accessed February 27, 2013).
Godfrey, L. R., and Jungers, W. L. “Chapter 7: Quaternary fossil lemurs”. In The Primate Fossil Record, ed. W.C. Hartwig, 97-121. Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Godinot, M. “Lemuriform Origins as Viewed from the Fossil Record.” Folia Primatologica 77, no. 6 (2006): 446-64.
Ketchum, Melba. “Facebook Post 2-25-13 at 10:06 Pm.” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=552102348143500&id=359075637446173 (accessed February 27, 2013).
Lindsay, Robert. “Interview with Richard Stubstad: Is Bigfoot Human?” Beyond Highbrow — Robert Lindsay. http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/interview-with-richard-stubstad-is-bigfoot-human/ (accessed February 27, 2013).
Rowe, Noel. The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Charlestown, Rhode Island: Pogonias Press, 1996.
Schrago, Carlos G., and Claudia A. M. Russo. “Timing the Origin of New World Monkeys.” Molecular Biology and Evolution 20, no. 10 (2003): 1620-25. http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/10/1620.full.pdf+html (accessed March 1, 2013).
Sussman, R.W. Primate Ecology and Social Structure. NJ: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2003.
“The Erickson Project Considering Pulling Out of Race? and Who Is Matilda? [bigfoot Rumor] (updated: Website Now Redirects to Godaddy.com).” Bigfoot Evidence. http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2011/11/erickson-project-considering-pulling.html (accessed February 27, 2013).
W., Vicki. “Will the Real Matilda Please Stand Up?” Bigfoot Evidence. http://bigfootevidence.blogspot.com/2013/03/will-real-matilda-please-stand-up.html (accessed March 1, 2013).
Wilson, Don E., and Elizabeth Hanlon. “Lemur Catta (primates: Lemuridae).” Mammalian Species 42, no. 854 (2010): 58-74. http://www.mammalsociety.org/uploads/Wilson%20and%20Hanlon%202010.pdf (accessed March 1, 2013).