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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sykes DNA Verdict: Yeti is a Bear

Has the mystery of the Yeti finally been solved?
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 10:06 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013

Terrifying mythical creature or just a bear? UK geneticist may have unlocked the truth about the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman.
Terrifying mythical creature or just a bear? UK geneticist may have unlocked the truth about the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman.[The picture obviously represents the more standard Almas or Wildman type instead of the type of creature under discussion-DD]

  • Geneticist: Mystery samples from the Himalayas match an ancient polar bear jawbone
  • Professor is looking for evidence of unknown species that may be linked to humans
  • He invited people around the world to send in samples of mystery creatures for analysis
  • Tales of the mysterious Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, have fascinated generations


(CNN) -- For centuries, tales of the Yeti, an elusive but terrifying creature said to roam the inhospitable Himalayan Mountains, have enthralled curious minds.
Now, research by a leading UK geneticist may have unlocked the truth about the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, after hair samples from two mystery animals proved to be a genetic match to an ancient polar bear.
The findings, to be explained in "Bigfoot Files," a documentary series on Britain's Channel 4 TV network, are the work of Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at Oxford University.
He put out a worldwide call last year for people to submit hair or other tissue from "cryptids," or previously undescribed species, and collected more than 30 samples for analysis.
Sykes' research focused on two samples in particular, both from the Himalayas but found about 800 miles apart, one in the Ladakh region and the other in Bhutan.
A footprint of Yeti, discovered near Mount Everest in 1951.
An [Alleged] footprint of Yeti, discovered near Mount Everest in 1951.
To his surprise, testing found a 100% match with a polar bear jawbone from Svalbard, the northernmost part of Norway[A group of islands in the Arctic Ocean], that dates back between 40,000 and 120,000 years, according to a news release from Channel 4.
What Sykes called an "exciting and completely unexpected result" casts new light on the Yeti legend, although it may not satisfy the legions of "Bigfootologists" around the world.
"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," Sykes said.
"But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. 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. Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridization between the brown bear and the descendant of the ancient polar bear."
Sykes' DNA testing forms part of the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project, which is also looking for genetic evidence of other mysterious creatures -- including the Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, in the Pacific Northwest and the Almasty in Russia -- to study their possible links to humans.
Those who submitted samples to the project last year were asked to give a description of the material and details of where and when it was found, as well as their own opinion of its likely species type and the reasons for that view.
The analysis, which involves sophisticated DNA testing and comparison of the findings with a database of other animals' genomes, doesn't come cheap, costing about $2,000 for each hair sample.
But it may finally allow scientists to pin down whether all those Yeti or Bigfoot "sightings" over the years -- often captured in blurred photos or shaky video footage -- are based on fact, mistaken identity or elaborate hoaxes.
" 'Bigfootologists' and other enthusiasts seem to think that they've been rejected by science," Sykes is quoted as saying. "Now I think that's a complete distortion of what science is about. Science doesn't accept or reject anything. All it does is examine the evidence, and that is what I'm doing."
Sykes has submitted the DNA results for publication in a peer-reviewed science journal and is also due to publish a book based on his research next year.
The answer is quite simple and is a point I personally have been trying to drive home since the onset of this study: THE YETI IS NOT ONE SPECIES BUT SEVERAL. THE WORD YETI DOES NOTAPPLY TO ONLY ONE THING, IT APPLIES TO SEVERAL DIFFERENT THINGS.
The word "YETI" is no more precise than the English word "Monster" or "Bugbear"
To quote Jay Cooney on the matter: "If this isn't just false media information, we should keep in mind that one of the reported Asian mystery animals lumped under the 'Yeti"'term is called the 'Chemo' [or Dremo] and is described as a large and occasionally upright walking bear which sometimes vocalizes through whistling. So perhaps Professor Sykes did find genetic evidence of a "Yeti" in the referenced genetic match after all. But I think it's STILL best to wait for the paper itself rather than to listen to media claims."
Eberhart's Mysterious Creatures lists this Cryptid as:
Mystery Primate or Bear of Central Asia, often confused with the Yeti.
Etymology: Tibetan (Sino-Tibetan) word, apparently with various meanings, among them: a female demon, a person who has gone astray from a religious life, a she-bear, and the red and blue varieties of the brown bear. Variant names: Chemo (“big”), Chemong, Dredmo (“brown bear”), Dremo. Physical description: Looks like a bear or large monkey. Taller than a human. Shaggy reddish, black, or dark-gray hair. Sometimes white headhair. Small eyes. Pointed mouth. Behavior: Nocturnal. Walks on all fours as well as bipedally. Growls and whistles. Omnivorous. Looks for food under large rocks. Throws rocks. Kills with its hands (or paws). Distribution: Eastern Tibet; Bhutan. Significant sighting: Somewhere southwest of Alamdo, Tibet, in July 1986, Reinhold Messner encountered a large, dark-haired animal that emerged from rhododendron bushes onto the path about 30 feet ahead of him. It rose on its hind legs, turned, and ran away on all fours. Local Tibetans told him it was a Chemo. Possible explanations: (1) The Brown bear (Ursus arctos), especially the isabelline or red variety found in the eastern and central Himalayas, is known in the Karakoram Range of Baltistan, Pakistan, as the dreng mo; to the Ladakhs in Jammu and Kashmir as drin mor; and in Tibet as the dred mong. Considered by some a subspecies (U. a. isabellinus), the red bear is generally 5 feet 6 inches–8 feet long, with a reddish, grizzled coat. It eats grasses, roots, and scavenged kills such as ibex. (2) The blue or horse variety of brown bear, sometimes considered a subspecies (U. a. pruinosus), is found in eastern Tibet and Sichuan Province, China. Its blue-tinted brown hairs are tipped with gold or slategray. A yellowish-brown or whitish cape forms a saddle mark over its shoulders, hence the name “horse bear.” (3) The Chemo may refer to the Yeti or Dzu-Teh, while the Dre-mo is a bear. Sources: Edmund Hillary and Desmond Doig, High in the Cold Thin Air (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962), pp. 100–101 119–123; Odette Tchernine, The Yeti (London: Neville Spearman, 1970), p. 175; Terry Domico, Bears of the World (New York: Facts on File, 1988); Reinhold Messner, My Quest for the Yeti (New York: St. Martin’s, 2000).
As a postscript, here is a statement made by Paul Mead on the CFZ Facebook Message board

Paul Mead whatever it is, I certainly don't buy the bipedal bear theory, Hilary in his 60s expedition book linked the brown/blue bear identification to the 'yeti', a bear pelt was brought back from Bhutan & identified by Sykes as an unknown subspecies of brown bear so this DNA may well have contributed to today's announcements, I agree however, that it is too early to state for certain that this bear is the definitive yeti as there is still a wealth of evidence that points to a large unknown primate possibly a sub species of orangutan living in the forests of SE Asia today

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