- Icon Films Ltd.
- The Yeti – or abominable snowman – has been described in legends as a mysterious ape-like creature or “man-bear” that stalks the Himalayas.
- People have connected bones, teeth, hair, and other samples from supposed Yetis on the Tibetan Plateau.
- A new genetic analysis reveals most of these samples come from creatures like the Himalayan brown bear and other Asian bears.
Legends tell of a mysterious creature that stalks the snowy wilderness high in the Himalayas.
The Yeti – or abominable snowman – is one of the world’s most famous cryptozoological creatures. It’s supposedly a massive ape-like hominid that has been occasionally spotted on the Tibetan Plateau. Some local terms describe it as a “man-bear.”
Over the years, the creature hasn’t just been seen from afar – people have collected its bones, teeth, hairs, feces, and more. A femur bone came from a cave on the plateau; a scrap of skin from a Yeti paw was kept as a monastic relic.
In order to try to solve the mystery, a group of researchers recently conducted a genetic analysis on nine “Yeti” samples, and also analyzed 15 samples from Asian bears including the Himalayan brown bear, Asian black bear, and Tibetan brown bear.
The results, announced in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, indicate that eight of the nine “Yeti” samples came from various local bears. The ninth sample, one of several from the Reinhold Messner Mountain Museum, was no mysterious cryptid either: It was a dog tooth.
“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,” Charlotte Lindqvist, the lead author of the study and a biologist at the University of Buffalo, said in a press release.
Lindqvist studies bears at the University of Buffalo, and was featured in a 2016 documentary titled “Yeti Or Not,” which provided her with the biological materials for the analysis.
- Abdullah Khan, Snow Leopard Foundation
Solving mysteries of unknown creatures
Biologists have long suspected that Yeti folklore originated from sightings of some sort of high altitude bear. Another recent genetic analysis concluded that Yeti remains might be linked to some sort of unknown polar bear hybrid.
But this new, more complete analysis showed that the samples analyzed so far all belong to known creatures. By comparing the samples to databases of bear DNA, however, the scientists did solve some lingering mysteries about bears. The study revealed that the highly endangered Himalayan brown bear split from other brown bears about 650,000 years ago, likely when expanding glaciers isolated that population from other bears.
“Clearly, a big part of the Yeti legend has to do with bears,” Lindqvist said in the release.
Those who still want to believe in the mysterious Yeti, however, can take heart in the fact that seemingly mythological creatures like the Okapi have turned out to be real.