The evidence does not lie: the legend of the Yeti has to do with bears and not with monstrous snowmen. This has been demonstrated by the analysis of DNA carried out by an international team of scientists to the remains of 9 alleged Yeti specimens that are kept in museums and in private collections and include teeth, hair, bones, skin or feces collected in the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. These shows were obtained thanks to the British production company Icon Films, which produced a special about the origins of the Yeti legend, ‘Yeti or no‘, released in 2016 on the Animal Planet network .
The Yeti, as furry and white as a snow bear, although biped and taller than a man, is part of the legendary monsters – especially since the 1950s – whose physical evidence has never been determined. No bodies or fossils have ever been found.
What is the Yeti really?
Of the 9 samples analyzed, 8 of them have been found to belong to bears: Asian black bears, brown bears from the Himalayas or Tibetans. The last sample, a tooth, is from a domestic dog. So things, those remnants of the “Abominable Snowman,” are nothing more than a set of bear’s hair and a dog’s tooth, No trace of the biped mythological being called Yeti that, according to popular legends, inhabits the mountains of Asia or any unusual creature.
“Our findings strongly suggest that the biological foundations of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears, and our study shows that genetics should be able to unravel the like mysteries,” says Charlotte Lindqvist of the University of Buffalo (USA).
Dismantling the legend of the Yeti
It is not the first time that science tries to dismantle this myth. In 2014, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford (UK) and the Museum of Zoology in Lausanne (Switzerland), led by Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, published an article describing how tested 37 samples of hair throughout the world, with a result similar to the present investigation.
It was the first genetic study of samples of “anomalous primates” and each of the samples analyzed corresponded to a known species, from polar bear to sheep and humans.
That first investigation, however, was based on a simpler genetic test than the current one. Only in the mitochondrial RNA sequencing, in the latter study, they used PCR amplification, mitochondrial RNA sequencing, mitochondrial genome assembly and phylogenetic analysis.
This work “represents the most rigorous analysis to date of samples suspected of being derived from anomalous or hominid mythical creatures,” the authors of the paper comment.
Outside of cryptic research, sequenced DNA, compared to living or modern animals, can provide an idea of the evolution of bears, especially for the most vulnerable or endangered.
The team sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 23 Asian bears (including the alleged Yeti samples) and compared it with other bears around the world. They found that Tibetan brown bears are closely related to the American bears, but the Himalayan bears belong to a different evolutionary lineage that separated about 650,000 years ago, during a great ice age.
“Additional genetic research on these rare and elusive animals can help illuminate the environmental history of the region, as well as have an evolutionary history around the world, and additional samples of ‘Yeti’ could contribute to this work,” said Charlotte. Lindqvist.