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article imageAbominable Snowman mystery may be solved

By Karen Graham     Oct 20, 2013 in Science
For years the world has been fascinated with tales of the mysterious, elusive creature we know as the Yeti, or abominable snowman. But DNA from purported samples of the creature may shed light on its true origins, bringing it out of the realm of fantasy.
Call the creature an Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Yeti. They are considered one in the same to most people, depending on the area of the world where they are seen. Scientists have scoffed at theories claiming the beast may be an, as yet, undiscovered species, or perhaps a missing link in human evolution, leaving them until recently, in the world of fantasy and myth.
British geneticist Bryan Sykes may have the answer to just what kind of creature has been lurking in the heavily forested regions of the American Northwest, the snow-covered mountains of Nepal and other parts of the world. Sykes claims to have matched the hairs supposedly belonging to Himalayan Yetis to a breed of ancient polar bear that lived over 40,000 years ago.
The findings, are explained in "Bigfoot Files," a documentary series on Britain's Channel 4 TV network, being aired on Sunday night. The Oxford University geneticist, well known for his research on human ancestry, says the observations of those seeing the animal may well be attributed to actual sightings of a previously unknown creature in the Himalayas, possibly a hybrid of brown bears and polar bears.
In an interview with NBC News, Sykes said he was most interested in bringing the Abominable Snowman out of the realm of fantasy, saying: "All my colleagues think I'm taking a risk in doing this, but I'm curious, and I am in a position to actually do something to answer the questions."
In starting his research, Sykes put out a call for samples of purported Yeti hair, his purpose being to put the samples through DNA analysis. One of the samples was some hairs a French mountaineer took from the mummified corpse of a purported Yeti in the Ladakh region of Northern India. The other sample was a single hair found 10 years ago in Bhutan, about 800 miles to the east.
The two samples matched the genetic make-up of a polar bear jawbone that was found in the Norwegian Arctic. The jawbone is thought to be over 40,000 years old, and belongs to an ancient relative of the polar bear. Sykes did receive other samples, but has yet to reveal the results of the testing.
When asked how sure he was of the results of the DNA being being right, Sykes had this to say: "One of the reasons I felt confident enough to go into this madcap area is I do not have to form an opinion. I have got the hairs and I have tested the hairs. I cannot vouch for their authenticity, but there were witnesses, and the DNA cannot be made up or rigged. Those results are absolutely firm."
Sykes told the BBC that it is very likely the creature being seen today is a hybrid from the breeding of a brown bear with the ancient ancestor of the polar bear, or a subspecies of brown bear that descends from the ancestor of the polar bear.
Which ever theory is true, the search for the Yeti goes far back in history. Even Alexander the Great was curious about the Yeti, demanding that villagers in the Indus valley bring one to him so that he could see it for himself.
More about Yeti, abominable snowman, Dna, Geneticist, Polar bear
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