The legendary Yeti may be a bear. Brian Sykes, an emeritus professor at Oxford University, tells the Associated Press that previously unidentified hair samples taken from what were thought to be Yetis appear to be genetically related to ancient polar bears.
In other parts of the world there are also stories of large, hairy, ape-like creatures that are called, alternatively, Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
The two samples — one was collected from India's Ladakh region about 40 years ago while the other was found in Bhutan some 10 years ago — closely matched DNA from a jawbone belonging to a Norwegian polar bear that is between 40,000 years and 120,000 years old.
"I don't think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas. But... 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," Sykes says, according to Discovery News. "Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridization between the brown bear and the descendent of the ancient polar bear."
Sykes has not published this work, LiveScience notes.
A Texas-based group recently said that its DNA analysis of North American Bigfoot samples indicated that they were a mix of human and an unknown hominin, leading them to postulate that Bigfoot is a human-primate hybrid. A separate analysis, though, showed the samples to be a combination of opossums and other species.
"What's different about the Sykes study is that he's using good science and genetic testing," Benjamin Radford, LiveScience's Bad Science columnist and deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer, says, referring in general to other Yeti studies. "It is certainly much more plausible that a bear was mistaken for a Yeti than that there exists a giant, bipedal hominid race that no one has discovered!"