Not Yeti, says Sykes. Bear with us. (UPDATE)

We have news from the Sykes study.

New research finds ‘Bigfoot’ DNA matches rare bear – The Independent.

New DNA research may have finally solved the mystery of the yeti. Tests on hair samples were found to have a genetic match with an ancient polar bear, with scientists believing there could be a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has been mistaken for the mythical beast.

Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the Oxford University, set out to collect and test “yeti” hair samples to find out which species they came from. In particular he analysed hairs from two unknown animals, one found in the Western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles to the east.

After subjecting the hairs to the most advanced DNA tests available and comparing the results to other animals’ genomes stored on the GenBank database, Professor Sykes found that he had a 100 per cent match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years – and probably around 120,000 years – a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.

Professor Sykes believes that the most likely explanation is that the animals are hybrids – crosses between polar bears and brown bears. The species are closely related and are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.

Another clue is related to another name for Yeti “Chemo”. Also supposedly found was a 300-year-old Tibetan manuscript that translates the text next to the image of a chemo which said: “The yeti is a variety of bear living in inhospitable mountainous areas.”

The legend of the Yeti was popular prior to Bigfoot. No yeti does not bode well for the idea of unknown primates still undiscovered around the world.

Here is the trailer for the Bigfoot Files show featuring Sykes that will air on Sunday in the U.K.

(17-Oct-2013) AP story as this is now hitting mainstream. DNA links mysterious Yeti to ancient polar bear.

UPDATE (21-Oct-2013) Additional details are revealed in this piece on Nat Geo.

One of the most promising samples that Sykes received included hairs attributed to a Yeti mummy in the northern Indian region of Ladakh; the hairs were purportedly collected by a French mountaineer who was shown the corpse 40 years ago. Another sample was a single hair that was found about a decade ago in Bhutan, some 800 miles (1,290 kilometers) away from Ladakh.

According to Sykes, the DNA from these two samples matched the genetic signature of a polar bear jawbone that was found in the Norwegian Arctic in 2004. Scientists say the jawbone could be up to 120,000 years old.

The Bigfoot community is not sure what to think about this. But essentially, it is a win for both skeptics and believers as Daniel Loxton notes here.

It would be a moment of triumph for cryptozoology skeptics, who have said all along that Yetis are really bears; and, simultaneously, it could be a moment of triumph for cryptozoologists, who have said for decades that Yetis are an unrecognized new type of large hairy mammal.

But scientists are appropriately skeptical until the paper comes out in a journal where the data can be properly examined. I have watched the episode and it is very well done. I love science! I’ll be writing a blog about it soon.

  25 comments for “Not Yeti, says Sykes. Bear with us. (UPDATE)

  1. Matt Crowley
    October 16, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    Very interesting, and dovetails well with Reinhold Messner’s claims:

  2. October 16, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    Is this the news that was rumored a week or so ago to be supposed to rewrite the understanding of human evolution?

  3. October 16, 2013 at 9:07 PM


    Perhaps Bigfooters will do an end run and claim this proves humans and Sasquatch have bears as a common ancestor.

  4. idoubtit
    October 16, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    Busterggi: I’m not sure. It does not seem to be the whole story. But it’s all I got so far.

  5. Andrew Gable
    October 17, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    No, I don’t think this is the “human” thing they were alluding to earlier… I’m hearing rumors in places that there’s some informatin on the Zana case in the late 1880s, the supposed wild woman captured in Russia.

  6. RDW
    October 17, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    Unless it were someone dressed up in a costume, bears would always be the most sensible explanation for a Bigfoot/Yeti sighting.

  7. idoubtit
    October 17, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Andrew: Zana DNA was already tested by Disotell and came back human, right?

  8. October 17, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    I think the dna was from Kwit, Zana’s son.

  9. Jon O
    October 17, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    As a biologist, it concerns me when people invoke the terms “hybrid” or “mutant” when describing unknown animals. If he got a 100% match using “the most advanced DNA tests available”, that argues pretty strongly against hybridization.

  10. October 17, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    After reading ‘Abominable Science,’ the bear DNA result is no surprise to me. I’ve been following the comments on Bigfoot evidence leading up to this announcement. The Footers were saying that “Skeptards” were going to “eat crow” when Sykes vindicated Ketchum–their thinking being that the Yeti and Bigfoot were two “races” of the same species. After the announcement, some Footers are claiming that the two are completely different and that the results don’t disprove Bigfoot. Others are claiming the announcement was fake or erroneous since “The Independent” article link was temporarily unavailable. Still, others are doing mental gymnastics trying to fool themselves into thinking the results support their views. For instance, two people have claimed that the ancient bear DNA from GenBank was actually Yeti DNA. This, according to them, explains the results. Denial is a sad thing.

  11. idoubtit
    October 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    This article equates Yeti with Bigfoot. I don’t think that’s a good move. Confusing, inaccurate.

  12. spookyparadigm
    October 17, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Jim, the BE blog is a link-baitish joke. Even as a student of cryptozoology as a cultural or epistemological phenomenon, it’s a pointless waste of time to read it and its ridiculous comments. Even as a critic pointing out awfulness, it is clearly a bit removed from “mainstream” cryptozoology if there is a such a thing.

  13. spookyparadigm
    October 17, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    The above should read click-baitish, not link-baitish

  14. Andrew Gable
    October 17, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Right, busterggi, the DNA tested had actually come from Zana’s son. I believe it had come back fairly consistent with that of a black man, which would have been unusual in late 1800s Russia, to be sure. I can’t recall what the problem had been with getting the DNA from Zana proper. I’m wondering if he’ll announce something like a colony of expatriate Africans in the Caucasus or something.

  15. spookyparadigm
    October 17, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    ” I believe it had come back fairly consistent with that of a black man, which would have been unusual in late 1800s Russia, to be sure.”

    That’s the reality behind the story cryptozoologists have been hyping for decades? That a bunch of villagers imprisoned and raped (IIRC the story) an African woman who they thought was a monster, and that’s proof of relic Neanderthals?

  16. Andrew Gable
    October 17, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Yeah, I think that is about the long and short of it. Not very glamorous, is it? And the descriptions of Zana are horribly inaccurate, then, as well… I recall seeing a reconstruction of him in life, and thinking he looked to me a bit more like an Australian aborigine than an African per se, but who am I to argue with DNA?

  17. Michael
    October 17, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    Pity that the Yeti is a bear! But, perhaps there is more to come from this DNA study! Are there any doubts about this in scientific terms, or is this more acceptable than the Ketchum results?

  18. Mike Byrne
    October 20, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    What he discovered is a new species of bears but who says hominids arent surviving either? If a bear survives why not hominids from 40,000 years ago. Not impossible! The samples were pretty bear like you could see that anyway. Messners sighting was a bear anyway he was half goggle eyed. But other sighting arent even characteristic of bears and walk bipedally. Even an ancient bear would have bear characteristics so im not sure skyes can jump to huge conclusions he can only go by what he analyses.

  19. Mike Byrne
    October 20, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    It does also equate bigfoot and yeti although theres no proof of that. I will go along with evidence but before anyone can prove beyond doubt an ancient unknown hominid is roaming lets not make definite answers so skyes is wrong to claim all yeti sightings is a new bear species

  20. Mike Byrne
    October 20, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    There are loads of new species not discovered no one knows!

  21. idoubtit
    October 20, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Mike Byrne: Not impossible but improbable. He gathered evidence to see what was out there and he has a hint there is some new bear out there. Cool. There is no good evidence for Yeti. If you go with the “who knows” fallacy, then I have an invisible dragon in my garage, prove me wrong. It’s pointless. You have to go by what you have, not what you wish. Most new species that are found are not huge mammals that have left no trace of existence in the fossil record to suggest they are still living. We find lots of insects though and animals that are just a little different than ones we already know.

    But you are correct in that Bigfoot is being equated with Yeti and I don’t think that is correct. It should not be proposed that way. And, I also think that one bear finding does not account for all Yeti/Bigfoot claims. It’s more complicated than that. Again, I think there is more to this story. But as someone suggested to me, this finding from Sykes *SO FAR* looks like another case of Lucy snatching the football from Charlie Brown.

  22. Lowell
    October 21, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    I think it may be worth reminding both sides of the debate that when Sykes began this project he asked for, and received, the BEST, most compelling samples available from what was considered to be the most reputable sources. So if that DNA, from the BEST avilable samples, keeps coming back bear or other known animal…Well, that may be your answer right there.

  23. October 21, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Meldrum has now done what paranormal believers always do when one of their cases show weakness. He has pointed to other dubious “evidence”. This time some other print–from the McNeeley-Cronin survey.

    Meldrum uses his own “re-creations” of the footprints to support his apparently unshakeable Bigfoot faith. These “re-creations” are wonderfully complete 3D feet that look excellent.

    But looking at the original photos from the survey, one can see virtually none of the details that Meldum creates here.

    On the other hand, the BBC show makes an excellent and convincing case that the famous Shipton photos likely show a back into front bear track. Interestingly, it seems that Meldrum did one of these dubious “re-creations” on those low detail photos as well.

    Such embarrassing methods these believers use.

  24. Frank Looney
    October 22, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    I remain skeptical of the Yeti, either as a bear or as an ape-man, simply because this is one scientist who is presenting his findings, not in a peer-reviewed journal, but in a BBC documentary. Science-via-television is a giant red flag when Bigfooters do it, and it should be a giant red flag here.

  25. idoubtit
    October 22, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    As we noted multiple times, Sykes has the paper in the works. That takes time for peer review and publication but I have every confidence it will be. And, as I also noted, it’s right to be skeptical but so far, this is on the right track. Huge difference from the Ketchum project.

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