Monster hunters who believed science would prove the reality of the Yeti once and for all will not like recent findings, but conservationists may be encouraged. Scientists have unveiled the identity of the yeti, in “the most rigorous analysis to date” of specimens supposedly taken from the legendary monster. Their research, published on Tuesday last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, continues to a string of scientific findings of that elusive hairy creature. This creature, also known as the Abominable Snowman, has long been a highlight of Himalayan folklore and became widely recognised in the Western world following 19th-century scientists’ accounts.
Over the years, several specimens have been collected that supposedly derive from real-life yetis. These formed the basis of a new research led by Dr Charlotte Lindqvist, a biologist at the University at Buffalo. Genetic investigations of nine “yeti” bone, skin, hair, tooth and faecal specimens indicate they derive from bears. The one difference was a single tooth collected from a stuffed museum exhibit, which came from a dog. Though the concept that yetis might arise from sightings of bears is not new, the investigation issued in Proceedings of the Royal Society B is the most extensive study conducted so far. A former paper linked two yeti specimens to an old polar bear, but it has since been called into question.
By conducting a complete genetic survey of a variety of samples, and examining them with samples taken from bears, Dr Lindqvist and her partners aimed to put the matter to bed once and for all.
Dr Lindqvist stated that our findings strongly recommended that the biological foundations of the yeti legend can be detected in local bears, and our research shows that genetics should be able to resolve other, similar mysteries. Besides solving monster mysteries, the scientists’ in-depth genetic investigation enabled them to learn more about bears in the Himalayan region. According to Dr Lindqvist, knowing the genetic difference of bears in the area can be helpful when working on management strategies for these mammals, many of which are critically threatened.
She continued that further genetic research on these rare and elusive animals may help illustrate the environmental story of the region, as well as bear evolutionary history worldwide and additional ‘yeti’ samples, could contribute to this work. The study revealed that the team’s samples came from modern bear species specifically, Himalayan brown and black bears.