In Chill Out, Scooby Doo!, Scooby and the gang go to the Himalayas to help a French hunter find and kill the Yeti / Abominable Snowman. After many chases and hilarious antics, the Yeti is discovered to be not an actual Yeti, but rather a stunt by Ming to get her crush to keep his radio station running.
Unfortunately for many kids (and many adults as well), Scooby and Shaggy still have a real Yeti to fear. However, this Yeti may not be what many have believed it to be. British professor, Bryan Sykes, has used science to prove the true identity of the Yeti, once and for all.
Last year, Sykes put out a request for people to send him samples from unidentified species, such as the Yeti, Bigfoot, and Sasquatch. In total, Sykes received 70 samples, 27 of which produced good DNA results. Out of those 27 useful DNA samples, 2 proved vital to the mission of the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project.
The two samples which sparked the most interest from Sykes were from 2 similar, yet distant, locations: the Western Himalayan region of Ladakh and Bhutan, which is approximately 800 miles east of Ladakh.
When Sykes cross-referenced the DNA from these two strands of hair with the DNA of other animals in the GenBank database, the results were both astounding and conclusive - The hairs showed a 100% match to the DNA of a 40,000-120,000 year old ancient polar bear from Svalbard, Norway (Which means one can only hope that this ancient polar bear was a panserbjørne, such as those from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series.)
So what do these results mean? According to Sykes, “This is an exciting and completely unexpected result that gave us all a surprise. 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. But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. It could mean there is a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the Polar Bear. Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridisation between the Brown Bear and the descendent of the ancient Polar Bear.”
Despite these rather conclusive findings, many in the community do not believe that these results will quell the fervor of Yeti enthusiasts: "I do not think the study gives any comfort to Yeti-believers. But "no amount of scientific data will ever shake their belief," stated David Frayer, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Kansas. Frayer went on to add, "If (Sykes') motivation for doing the analyses is to refute the Yeti nonsense, then good luck."
Sykes's motivation for the project, though, is not to ruin the hopes and aspirations of Yeti-hunters, but rather to "to inject some science into a rather murky field."
If anything, Sykes's findings may have spurred an even larger hunt for the Yeti. After all, who wouldn't want to find an ancient-hybrid polar-brown bear that may or may not have opposable thumbs and super-awesome metal armor?
Image via Wikipedia