Sightings of the Abominable Snowman or Yeti, a fanciful, hairy, ape-like creature said to live in the mountainous regions of Asia, may have actually been of bears, according to a new genetic study.
Researchers led by the University at Buffalo's Charlotte Lindqvist amassed two dozen hair, tissue, bone, or fecal samples from purported Yetis or Himalayan brown bears for sequencing analysis. Nine of the samples were alleged Yeti samples. As Lindqvist and her colleagues report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week, most of the samples, even the ones that were supposed to be Yeti in origin, were actually from Asian black bears and Himalayan brown bears. One sample was from a dog.
"Our findings strongly suggest that the biological underpinnings of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears, and our study demonstrates that genetics should be able to unravel other, similar mysteries," Lindqvist says in a statement.
Oxford University's Brian Sykes said in 2013 that two samples he obtained that were supposed to be from Yetis were from bears. Sykes similarly in 2014 examined samples of North American version of the Yeti, known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, to find DNA from cows, black bears, and dogs, among other known non-Sasquatch creatures. A separate analysis of other alleged Bigfoot samples revealed them to be mostly opossum.
As the Atlantic notes, Lindqvist's new study also is the first to generate a full mitochondrial genome of the critically endangered Himalayan brown bear. The study further indicates that Asian black bears and Himalayan brown bears, rather than being subspecies, are genetically distinct, it adds.