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.