Has the Yeti mystery been solved? New research finds 'Bigfoot' DNA matches rare polar bear

Discovery leads scientists to believe there could be a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has been mistaken for the mythical beast

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman is a staple of legend, mythology and mystery.

An ape like creature, taller than a human, that inhabits the Himalayan region of Nepal or Tibet.

The search to find the yeti can be traced back to Alexander the Great who demanded from villagers in the Indus Valley that he see one for himself. The villagers - even then - were unable to oblige.

But now the ancient mystery of the yeti may have been solved, using the science of DNA.

Despite being long thought of as a myth, a British scientist has concluded that the legendary creature may in fact be a sub-species of brown bear.

Tests on hair samples were found to have a genetic match with an ancient polar bear, with scientists believing there could be a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has long been mistaken for the mythical beast.

Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes set out to collect and test "yeti" hair samples to find out which species they came from.

In particular he analysed hairs from two unknown animals, one found in the Western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles to the east.

The 'myth' of the yeti is thought to have originated in Tibet and spread throughout the region along the trade routes to Nepal via the Sherpa. However, mystery primates are recorded on every continent on earth, with the exception of Antarctica.

After subjecting the hairs to the most advanced DNA tests available and comparing the results to other animals' genomes stored on the GenBank database, Professor Sykes found that he had a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years - and probably around 120,000 years - a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.

Professor Sykes believes that the most likely explanation is that the animals are hybrids - crosses between polar bears and brown bears. The species are closely related and are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.

The professor said: "This is an exciting and completely unexpected result that gave us all a surprise. There's more work to be done on interpreting the results. I don't think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas.

"But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. It could mean there is a sub species of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the polar bear. Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridisation between the brown bear and the descendent of the ancient polar bear."

A photograph of a "yeti' footprint, taken by British climber Eric Shipton at the base of Everest, sparked global mania after it was taken in 1951.

Legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who became the first man to climb Everest without oxygen, has studied yetis since he had a terrifying encounter with a mysterious creature in Tibet in 1986.

His own research backs up the Prof Sykes' theory. He uncovered an image in a 300-year-old Tibetan manuscript of a "Chemo" - another local name for the yeti, with text alongside it which was translated to read: "The yeti is a variety of bear living in inhospitable mountainous areas."

Prof Sykes added: "Bigfootologists and other enthusiasts seem to think that they've been rejected by science. Science doesn't accept or reject anything, all it does is examine the evidence and that is what I'm doing."

His investigations features in a new three-part Channel 4 documentary series, Bigfoot Files, which starts on Sunday.

A book by Prof Sykes about his research, The Yeti Enigma: A DNA Detective Story, is to be published next spring.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam