Despite what TV cop shows would like you to believe, DNA evidence can be wrong. This is good news for Yetis who were not looking forward to inviting brown bears and polar bears over for the holidays based on DNA tests that pointed to Yeti being a polar bear-brown bear hybrid. It turns out those results were in error.
You may remember the research led by Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes which analyzed 37 samples of Yeti and Bigfoot hairs. Thirty-five were determined to be from common animals but two unknowns from the Himalayas were compared to a DNA database and appeared to be from an extinct polar bear species, leading to the conclusion that the Abominable Snowman is a hybrid bear.
However, new research by Ross Barnett, from the University of Copenhagen, and Ceiridwen Edwards from the University of Oxford, published in the Royal Society journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that the samples actually belong to a Himalayan brown bear, a rare sub-species of brown bears whose range includes mountainous areas of Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India.
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.
After reviewing the new analysis, Bryan Sykes and his team acknowledged their error, which was caused by an incomplete search of the DNA database used. Of course, their statement points out that this still doesn’t prove or disprove the existence of the yeti,
Importantly, for the thrust of the paper as a whole, the conclusion that these Himalayan ‘yeti’ samples were certainly not from a hitherto unknown primate is unaffected. We stressed in the original paper that the true identity of this intriguing animal needs to be refined, preferably by sequence data from fresh tissue samples derived from a living specimen where DNA degradation is no longer a concern.
Well, if we HAD some fresh tissue samples from a living specimen, we probably wouldn’t need geneticists.
The search continues.