Yeti mystery is finally solved: DNA evidence suggests ancient samples of the 'abominable snowman' belong to bears

  • Sightings of the Yeti or abominable snowman have been reported for centuries
  • Now, a DNA study is providing insight into the origins of the Himalayan legend
  • Experts analysed specimens - including bone, skin, hair and faecal samples
  • The findings showed that one was from a dog and the other eight were from Asian black bears, Himalayan brown bears or Tibetan brown bears

The hunt for the elusive Yeti has suffered a setback, as supposed 'Yeti' hair and bones proved to be from bears.

Sightings of the Yeti or 'abominable snowman' - a mysterious, ape-like creature said to inhabit the high mountains of Asia - have been reported for centuries in Nepal and Tibet.

Footprints have also been spotted and stories passed down from generation to generation.

But the new DNA study of purported Yeti samples from museums and private collections suggest the Himalayan legend could have quite ordinary origins.

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The hunt for the elusive Yeti (pictured, artist's impression) has suffered a setback as supposed 'yeti' hair and bones proved to be from bears or even a dog?

The hunt for the elusive Yeti (pictured, artist's impression) has suffered a setback as supposed 'yeti' hair and bones proved to be from bears or even a dog?

WHAT DID THEY DO?

Researchers analysed nine 'Yeti' specimens - including bone, tooth, skin, hair and faecal samples - collected in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.

The findings showed that one was from a dog.?

The other eight were from Asian black bears, Himalayan brown bears or Tibetan brown bears.

Researchers?investigated samples such as a scrap of skin from the hand or paw of a 'Yeti' - part of a monastic relic - and a fragment of femur bone from a decayed 'Yeti' found in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau.

The skin sample turned out to be from an Asian black bear, and the bone from a Tibetan brown bear.

The scientists sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 23 Asian bears - including the purported Yetis, and compared the genetic data to that of other bears worldwide.

The analysis showed that while Tibetan brown bears share a close common ancestry with their North American and Eurasian kin, Himalayan brown bears belong to a distinct evolutionary lineage that diverged early on from all other brown bears.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo analysed nine 'Yeti' specimens - including bone, tooth, skin, hair and faecal samples - collected in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that one was from a dog.?

The other eight were from Asian black bears, Himalayan brown bears or Tibetan brown bears.

Dr Charlotte Lindqvist, who led the study, said: 'Our findings strongly suggest that the biological underpinnings of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears, and our study demonstrates that genetics should be able to unravel other, similar mysteries.'

The team is not the first to research 'Yeti' DNA, but Dr Lindqvist says previous projects ran simpler genetic analyses, which left important questions unresolved.?

Dr Linqvist said: 'This study represents the most rigorous analysis to date of samples suspected to derive from anomalous or mythical "hominid"-like creatures.'

Her team investigated samples such as a scrap of skin from the hand or paw of a 'Yeti' - part of a monastic relic - and a fragment of femur bone from a decayed 'Yeti' found in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau.

Researchers found a femur bone (pictutred) from the decayed body of a purported Yeti found in a cave in Tibet which actually belonged to a Tibetan brown bear

Researchers found a femur bone (pictutred) from the decayed body of a purported Yeti found in a cave in Tibet which actually belonged to a Tibetan brown bear

The skin sample turned out to be from an Asian black bear, and the bone from a Tibetan brown bear.

The 'Yeti' samples that Dr Lindqvist examined were provided to her by British production company Icon Films, which featured her in the 2016 Animal Planet special 'Yeti Or Not' which explored the origins of the fabled being.

As well as tracing the origins of the Yeti legend, Dr Lindqvist's work is also uncovering information about the evolutionary history of Asian bears.

This hair was said to have come from a Yeti that a Jesuit priest spotted in the mountains in the region in the 1950s but researchers found that the sample was actually from a Tibetan brown bear

This hair was said to have come from a Yeti that a Jesuit priest spotted in the mountains in the region in the 1950s but researchers found that the sample was actually from a Tibetan brown bear

Pictured is a Himalayan brown bear from Deosai National Park, Pakistan. A new study ties DNA from purported Yetis to Asian bears, including Himalayan brown bears

Pictured is a Himalayan brown bear from Deosai National Park, Pakistan. A new study ties DNA from purported Yetis to Asian bears, including Himalayan brown bears

THE HISTORY OF THE YETI

The first accounts of Yetis emerged before the 19th century from Buddhists who believed that the creature inhabited the Himalayas.

They depicted the mysterious beast as having similarities to an ape and carrying a large stone as a weapon while making a whistling sound.

The term Abominable Snowman was developed in 1921 following a book by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury called Mount Everest The Reconnaissance.

Popular interest in creature gathered pace in early 20th century as tourists began making their own trips to the region to try and capture the Yeti. They reported seeing strange markings in the snow.

The Daily Mail led a trip called the the Snowman Expedition in 1954 to Everest. During the trip mountaineering leader John Angelo Jackson photographed ancient paintings of Yetis and large footprints in the snow.

A number of hair samples were also found that were believed to have come from a Yeti scalp.

British mountaineer Don Whillans claimed to have witnessed a creature when scaling Annapurna in 1970. He said that while searching for a campsite he heard some odd cries which his guide attributed to a Yeti's call. That night, he saw a dark shape moving near his camp.?

She said: 'Bears in this region are either vulnerable or critically endangered from a conservation perspective, but not much is known about their past history.

'The Himalayan brown bears, for example, are highly endangered. Clarifying population structure and genetic diversity can help in estimating population sizes and crafting management strategies.'

The scientists sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 23 Asian bears - including the purported Yetis, and compared the genetic data to that of other bears worldwide.

A family of Himalayan brown bears, including a female and two cubs, from a camera trap study of wild bears in northern Pakistan.?The scientists sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 23 Asian bears - including the purported Yetis

A family of Himalayan brown bears, including a female and two cubs, from a camera trap study of wild bears in northern Pakistan.?The scientists sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 23 Asian bears - including the purported Yetis

The analysis showed that while Tibetan brown bears share a close common ancestry with their North American and Eurasian kin, Himalayan brown bears belong to a distinct evolutionary lineage that diverged early on from all other brown bears.

The split occurred about 650,000 years ago, during a period of glaciation, according to the scientists.

The timing suggests that expanding glaciers and the region's mountainous geography may have caused the Himalayan bears to become separated from others, leading to a prolonged period of isolation and an independent evolutionary path.

SIGHTINGS AND CLAIMS ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF THE YETI

1832: A book on trekker B.H Hodgon's experiences in Nepal recalls the sighting of a tall, bipedal creature covered in long dark hair. Mr Hodgson concluded it was an orangutan.

1899: Laurence Waddell reports his guides seeing an ape-like creature and seeing footprints. He suspects they spotted a bear.

1925: N.A Tombazi, a photographer, wrote that he saw a creature in the Himalayas that was walking upright like a human, was dark coloured, and wore no clothes.

1951: Eric Shipton captured images of what some believe is a Yeti footprint .

1948: Peter Byrne claimed to have discovered a Yeti footprint in India .

1953: Sir Edmund Hillary reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. He discounted Yeti reports as unreliable.

1954: Mountaineering leader John Jackson photographed symbolic paintings of the Yeti along with many sets of footprints in Nepal, some of which could not be identified.

1959: Supposed Yeti feces were collected and analysed. They were found to contain a parasite that could not be identified.

1959: Actor James Stewart, while visiting India, reportedly smuggled Yeti remains to London .

1960: Sir Edmund mounted an expedition to collect and analyse physical evidence of the Yeti. He found nothing conclusive.

1970: British mountaineer Don Whillans claimed to have witnessed a creature while scaled Annapurna.

1983: Daniel Taylor and Robert Fleming Jr led a Yeti expedition into Nepal's Barun Valley where footprints were discovered.

1996: A hoax Yeti movie called The Snow Walker Film was aired .

2007: U.S TV programme Destination Truth reported finding Yeti-like footprints in the Everest region.

2008: The BBC reported that hairs collected in North-East India were tested, but results about what creature it came from were inconclusive .

2008: Japanese adventures photographed footprints thought to have been left by a Yeti.

2011: At a conference in Russia , scientists and enthusiasts claimed to have 95 per cent proof of the Yeti's existence. It was later claimed to be a publicity stunt.

2011: A hunter claims to have spotted a bear-like creature trying to kill one of his sheep in Russia.

2013: British climber Mike Rees captures an image of footprints in the Himalayas thought to offer further proof of the Yeti's existence.

2014: A video of a 'hairy figure' is captured stumbling through a forest in Russia.?

Dr Lindqvist added: 'Further genetic research on these rare and elusive animals may help illuminate the environmental history of the region, as well as bear evolutionary history worldwide - and additional 'Yeti' samples could contribute to this work.'

Science can be a useful tool in exploring the roots of myths about large and mysterious creatures.

In Africa, the longstanding Western legend of an 'African unicorn' was explained in the early 20th Century by British researchers.

In Africa, the longstanding Western legend of an 'African unicorn' was explained in the early 20th Century by British researchers. They found and described the flesh-and-blood okapi, a giraffe relative that looks like a mix between a giraffe, a zebra and a horse

In Africa, the longstanding Western legend of an 'African unicorn' was explained in the early 20th Century by British researchers. They found and described the flesh-and-blood okapi, a giraffe relative that looks like a mix between a giraffe, a zebra and a horse

Researchers analysed nine 'Yeti' specimens - including bone, tooth, skin, hair and faecal samples - collected in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau

Researchers analysed nine 'Yeti' specimens - including bone, tooth, skin, hair and faecal samples - collected in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau

They found and described the flesh-and-blood okapi, a giraffe relative that looks like a mix between a giraffe, a zebra and a horse.

And in Australia some scholars have speculated that references to enormous animal-like creatures in Australia's Aboriginal 'Dreamtime' mythology may have drawn from ancient encounters with real megafauna or their remains, known today from Australia's fossil record.

But while such connections remain uncertain, Dr Lindqvist said the new work - like the discovery of the okapi - is direct, adding: 'Clearly, a big part of the Yeti legend has to do with bears.'?

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