DNA study solves mystery of Himalayan Yeti, with surprising results
Tales of a fierce ‘Abominable Snowman’, otherwise called Yeti, Sasquatch or Bigfoot, is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries. Apparent eye-witness accounts, blurry home videos, and traces of large non-human footprints have instilled both fear and curiosity in people for centuries. Now, it appears that the mystery has been solved thanks to a new DNA study conducted by British Scientists, and the results are surprising.
Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes conducted a DNA analysis on hair samples from suspected yetis, one found in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles away. 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 searching for the Yeti around 10 years ago. Skyes used these samples to compare them to those in GenBank, the international repository of gene sequences of known species.
Sykes was surprised and perplexed by what the analysis revealed, which was a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Norway, which dates back between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago. This was around the time that the polar bear and the related brown bear were separating into different species and Sykes believes the most likely explanation is that the animal is a sub-species of brown bear that is descended from an ancestor of the ancient polar bear.
“This is a species that hasn’t been recorded for 40,000 years. Now, we know one of these was walking around ten years ago. And what’s interesting is that we have found this type of animal at both ends of the Himalayas. If one were to go back, there would be others still there,” said Professor Sykes. "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 said that his results were "completely unexpected" and that more work needed to be done interpreting them. He has submitted to a journal for peer review so other scientists will be able to examine the results more closely as soon as they are published.
He is aware of the limitations of his analysis, saying that there was only a limited amount that could be learned with the hair. "It's 40 years old and not much DNA there really. The next best thing to do is to get an expedition together to find one and see what one is like in the wild and to see if any aspects of its behaviour are more likely to be identified as a yeti.