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The Yeti is probably a Himalayan bear

The Yeti – also described as the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch – is the stuff of legend. The problem is that no one has captured one or taken a clearly defined photograph or video. A time goes on, the possibility of finding a large and yet-unknown species of mammal fades.

New science report has been produced because of previous research that suggested that the Yeti was some form of hybrid species. This early research was reported by Digital Journalist Karen Graham last year (in a good article that is well-worth reading.)

The new study counters this and suggests that the Yeti is simply an already known, and fairly common, species of bear. With the 2014 study, the science team compared the DNA sequence from two potential Yeti samples. One of these was obtained 40 years ago in northern India; the second was a more recent sample, found in a Bhutanese forest.

These “Yeti” samples were compared with other animals. Through this analysis, the scientists reported a 100 percent match to a 40,000-year-old Norwegian polar bear sample. Based on this insight the researchers suggested that the Yeti are probably a hybrid bear species resulting from an ancient mix of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) and brown bear (Ursus arctos). The research was published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B (“Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti, bigfoot and other anomalous primates.”)

This finding was later challenged by a different research group who argued that the Yeti sample were actually those of the modern Alaskan polar bear. This research was also published in Proceedings B and was titled “Himalayan ‘yeti’ DNA: polar bear or DNA degradation? A comment on ‘Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti’ by Sykes et al. (2014).”

With the new 2015 study, conducted by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the University of Kansas, a more detailed genetic analysis of the “Yeti” sequences, together with matches to existing and extinct bear species, has taken place.

Here the scientists have found that the original study’s small gene fragment was identical in brown and polar bears. This infers, Live Science reports, that the DNA evidence would not have been sufficient to distinguish between the two species. Since polar bears do not live in the Himalayas, but brown bears do, the authors suggest that the “Yeti” is merely a Himalayan brown bear. However, intriguing to the Yeti sightings, they state that it could be a potential subspecies able to walk on its hind legs.

The new research has been published in the journal Zoo Keys, in a paper titled: “No need to replace an “anomalous” primate (Primates) with an “anomalous” bear (Carnivora, Ursidae).”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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