Past studies suggest Himalayan bears behind Yeti

New Delhi: Footprints, claimed by the Indian Army in its twitter account to be of the "mythical beast Yeti", which were sighted by their expedition team near the Makalu Base Camp, Nepal, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Twitter/PTI Photo) (PTI4_30_2019_000053B)

A golden-brown hair sample collected from Ladakh once raised the hopes on finding a Yeti, but subsequent studies dashed such hopes.

Analysing the DNA of 37 so-called Yeti samples, a group of researchers from Europe and the USA found a perfect match for all but two among known animals. The two odd samples were from Ladakh and Bhutan.

The Ladakh sample was from an animal shot 40 years ago by an experienced hunter, who reported that its behaviour was very different from the brown bear (Ursus arctos) with which he was very familiar. The sample from Bhutan had 100% match with the DNA recovered from a Pleistocene fossil of an ancestor of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) that was alive more than 40,000 years ago but not to modern examples of the species.

The Bhutan sample was recovered from a high altitude (3,500 mt) bamboo forest that was identified as a nest of a migyhur, the Bhutanese equivalent of the yeti. The Ladakh sample hair were golden-brown, whereas the hair from Bhutan was reddish-brown in appearance.

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“It seems more likely that the two strands of hair are from either a previously unrecognised bear species or hybrids of two bear species,” the researchers reported in the Proceedings of Biological Sciences in August 2014.

“If these bears are widely distributed in the Himalayas, they may well contribute to the biological foundation of the Yeti legend, especially if, as reported by the hunter who shot the Ladakh specimen, they behave more aggressively towards humans than known indigenous bear species,” they wrote. “While it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support,” said the team led by Bryan Sykes of the Oxford University.

Three years later, another genetic analysis of the Yeti samples kept in museums around the world ruled out the possibility of a hitherto unknown hairy beast hiding in the snow-capped mountain, escaping people’s attention.

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

Of those, one turned out to be from a dog. The other eight were from Asian bears — one from an Asian black bear, one from a Himalayan brown bear, and the other six from Tibetan brown bears, according to the study, published in November 2017 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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