Scientist links Yeti to ancient polar bear, using DNA

Science -

A geneticist at Oxford University used DNA samples from alleged Yeti hair to link the "Abominable Snowman" of legend to an ancient species of polar bear.

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Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes said Oct. 17 that DNA testing of alleged Yeti hair shared traits with a prehistoric Arctic polar bear jawbone that's at least 40,000 years old. The testing showed the hair samples didn't come from modern Himalayan bears, but from direct descendants of the ancient animal.

"All of the work that's been done has been in the realm of fantasy… I have got the hairs and I have tested the hairs. I cannot vouch for their authenticity, but there were witnesses, and the DNA cannot be made up or rigged. Those results are absolutely firm." Brian Sykes, University of Oxford genetics professor

Sykes put out a call for Yeti hair in 2012 in order to launch his investigation.

One of the samples came from an alleged Yeti mummy in the Indian region of Ladakh in the western Himalayas, taken by a French mountaineer 40 years ago. The other was a single hair found a decade ago in Bhutan -- some 800 miles east of where the first sample was found.

Sykes thinks the creature may be a previously unknown species or a hybrid between different bear species. The "polar bear ingredient" in the genome of the alleged Yeti hair may affect the creature's behavior, he said, causing it to "act different, look different, maybe walk on two feet more often."

"There's more work to be done on interpreting the results. I don't think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas… It could mean there is a subspecies of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the polar bear." Brian Sykes, University of Oxford genetics professor

Skyes said a "more recent hybridization" between brown bear and ancient polar bear is also possible. He has submitted his research for peer review and his findings will be broadcast Oct. 20 on Britain's Channel 4.

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