Yeti, Abominable Snowman, or…Polar Bear?By: Courtney Wills - October 20, 2013
Yeti, Abominable Snowman, or…polar bear? Yep, that’s right – the Yeti myth has finally been put to rest, at least for us skeptics. Bryan Sykes, a genetics professor at the University of Oxford, says that he now has the DNA evidence to prove that the elusive ‘Yeti,’ or, ‘Abominable Snowman,’ is merely the descendant of an ancient Norwegian polar bear.
Sykes recently told NBC that he began his quest for evidence of the world’s most famous mythical creatures because of the lack of scientific research that had been done previously on the fantastical subject – and, he added, “I am in a position to actually do something to answer the questions.”
In 2012 Sykes began his journey on ‘the Yeti project’ by contacting scientists and museums worldwide, asking for hair samples obtained from purported Yetis, Bigfoots, or Sasquatches. Flooded with responses, he chose two samples to use for his analyses. Sykes said, “Of the samples in this study, one came from a Yeti mummy in Ladakh. It was from the mummified body that was shot 40 years ago by a local hunter. He kept it because he did not think it was a bear from its behavior. To him it was a Yeti.”
The second sample used for comparison came from a Himalayan region 800 miles east of Ladakh, the Kingdom of Bhutan. According to the professor, this sample, obtained a decade ago, was “a single hair, found by the king’s own Yeti guards.”
Upon extensive DNA testing of the hair, Sykes compared the results to other animal genome data stored in the GenBank database, and the final analysis was surprising – the relation between the jawbone of an ancient Norwegian polar bear and the two hair samples from the mysterious creatures in Ladakh and Bhutan were 100% matches.
The ancient polar bear Sykes matched the two samples with was a bear that is thought to have lived about 40,000 years ago in the Norwegian Arctic.
Sykes told the Associated Press that he believes the most viable explanation for the beings long theorized to be Yetis is that the creatures “…may be a new species…may be a hybrid.” (Between brown bears and Himalayan polar bears.) However, his analysis did not support a link between modern bears in the Himalayas, but prehistoric polar bears.
Despite centuries of “sightings,” the Yeti mystery may now be put to bed for good. Hopefully, Sykes’ research on the quest for Bigfoot and Sasquatch will be just as conclusive. As the British scientist recently said, “Bigfootologists and other enthusiasts seem to think that they’ve been rejected by science. Science doesn’t accept or reject anything, all it does is examine the evidence and that is what I’m doing.”
If you’re lucky enough to be in the UK, you can catch Bryan Sykes on a new documentary series, “Bigfoot Files.” The series will devote its first episodes to the 3-part special on Bigfoot, featuring Sykes – the documentary will premiere on Sunday on Britain’s Channel 4.
Image courtesy Jerzy Strzelecki via Wikimedia Commons.