Hikers in Tibet and the Himalayas need not fear the monstrous yetiâ€”but theyâ€™d darn well better carry bear spray. DNA analyses of nine samples purported to be from the â€œabominable snowmanâ€ reveal that eight actually came from various species of bears native to the area.
In the folklore of Nepal, the yeti looms large. The creature is often depicted as an immense, shaggy ape-human that roams the Himalayan hinterlands. Purported sightings over the years, as well as scattered â€œremainsâ€ secreted away in monasteries or held by shamans, have hinted to some that the yeti is not merely a mythical boogeyman.
But science has not borne this out so far. Previous genetic analyses of a couple of hair samples collected in India and Bhutan suggested that one small stretch of their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)â€”the genetic material in a cellâ€™s power-generating machinery thatâ€™s passed down only by femalesâ€”resembled that of polar bears. That finding hinted that a previously unknown type of bear, possibly a hybrid between polar bears and brown bears, could be roaming the Himalayas, says Charlotte Lindqvist, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York in Buffalo.
To find out for sure, Lindqvist and her colleagues took a more thorough look at the mtDNA of as many samples of supposed yeti remains as she could get her hands on. Some were obtained when she worked with a U.K. production crew on the 2016 documentary Yeti or Not?, which sought to sift fact from folklore. The filmmakers got hold of a tooth and some hair collected on the Tibetan Plateau in the late 1930s, as well as a sample of scat from Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messnerâ€™s museum in the Tyrolean Alps. More recent samples included hair collected in Nepal by a nomadic herdsman and a leg bone found by a spiritual healer in a cave in Tibet. The team also analyzed samples recently collected from several subspecies of bears native to the area, including the Himalayan brown bear, the Tibetan brown bear, and the black bear. Altogether, the scientists analyzed 24 samples, including nine purported to be from yeti.
Of the nine â€œyetiâ€ samples, eight turned out to be from bears native to the area, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The other sample came from a dog.
Geneticist Bryan Sykes may have identified the mysterious Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas.
BBC story with video.
Research by a British scientist has concluded that the legendary Himalayan yeti may in fact be a sub-species of brown bear.
DNA tests on hair samples carried out by Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes found that they matched those from an ancient polar bear.
He subjected the hairs to the most advanced tests available.
He says the most likely explanation for the myth is that the animal is a hybrid of polar bears and brown bears.
Prof Sykes told the BBC that there may be a real biological animal behind the yeti myth.
“I think this bear, which nobody has seen alive,… may still be there and may have quite a lot of polar bear in it,” he said.
“It may be some sort of hybrid and if its behaviour is different from normal bears, which is what eyewitnesses report, then I think that may well be the source of the mystery and the source of the legend.”
Prof Sykes conducted the DNA tests on hairs from two unidentified animals, one from Ladakh – in northern India on the west of the Himalayas – and the other from Bhutan, 1,285km (800 miles) further east.
The results were then compared with the genomes of other animals that are stored on a database of all published DNA sequences.
Suspected yeti footprints in Nepal Suspected yeti footprints – such as these in Nepal – are regularly photographed
Prof Sykes found that he had a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back to between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago – a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.
The species are closely related and are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.
The sample from Ladakh came from the mummified remains of a creature shot by a hunter around 40 years ago, while the second sample was in the form of a single hair, found in a bamboo forest by an expedition of filmmakers around 10 years ago.
Prof Sykes said that his results were “completely unexpected” and that more work needed to be done interpreting them.
Read the whole thing.
The Sci Fi channel hosts a program titled Destination Truth, devoted to serving up weekly episodes purportedly “investigating” reports of mysterious creatures across the globe. Representatives of the program traveled to Tibet to investigate the Yeti, and what do you know? they promptly discovered Yeti footprints.
With such unambiguous evidence as the footprint cast pictured above, naturally enough the mainstream media hastened to bring all this to the attention of worldwide readers.
Just remember these are exactly the same newspapers which also publish the Global Warming stories frequently on the basis of reports from sources just as reliable and disinterested as Destination Truth.