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Ancient 'Abominable Snowman' Theory Debunked: New DNA Analysis

Dec 18, 2014 05:07 PM EST
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The Abominable Snowman is something of a world-famous legend, and as most of these high-profile legends go, there are always scientists trying to debunk them. Now, recent DNA analyses of hair from two "yetis" has caused one lab to refute the claims of another concerning the legendary creature's true nature.

Back in the early 1970s, a French mountaineer trekking along the western edge of the Himalayas encountered a hunter who recently shot and killed a strange, bear-like animal. The hunter had reportedly been terrified of the beast, thinking he had encountered an Abominable Snowman, and was quick to hand the remains off to the hiker.

Later, that mountaineer handed the preserved remains off to Bryan Sykes, a geneticist from the University of Oxford. With modern DNA analysis technologies, Sykes was finally able to investigate this mysterious sample just last year.

Sykes tested the hairs of this animal, alongside the hairs of a similar unidentified animal found 800 miles east of Bhutan, and discovered something absolutely stunning: the genomes of these creatures had a 100 percent match with an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway.

The ancient specimen in question dates back to at least 40,000 years ago, right when the polar bear and its close relative, the brown bear, were separating into distinct species.

"This is a species that hasn't been recorded for 40,000 years. Now, we know one of these was walking around ten years ago," he told The Telegraph just last year, adding that the fright of the hunter may indicate unusual behavior.

"Maybe it is more aggressive, more dangerous or is more bipedal than other bears," (certainly enough to earn it the title "abominable") he suggested.

Now, however, a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B took a second look at these samples, with researchers Ceiridwen Edwards and Ross Barnett carrying out their own DNA analysis.

They found that the genetics has enough similarities to suggest that the samples are simply Himalayan bears - a rare sub-species of brown bear that had not been extensively studied.

"The common name for these bears in the region is Dzu-teh, a Nepalese term meaning 'cattle bear', and they have long been associated with the myth of the yeti," the pair wrote.

Taking a second look at his own work, and in light of an ever-improving understanding of genetic degradation, Sykes was quick to admit his mistake. However, he and his team add that that does not defeat the original aim of their work, which was to debunk the idea of a "yeti" - a large bipedal and ape-like creature.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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