People have reported sightings of Yeti or the Abominable snowman, a mysterious monkey-like creature that has figured prominently in the mythology of Nepal and Tibet for centuries. Some have seen footprints. Generation after generation have transmitted stories.
Now, a new DNA study of alleged Yeti samples offers an idea of its origins and suggests that everything can be a myth after all.
Researchers badyzed nine "Yeti" specimens, including bone, samples of teeth, skin, hair and feces collected in the Himalayas and the 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 brown bear from the Himalayas and the other six from brown Tibetan bears.
"Our findings suggest that the biological foundations of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears, and our study shows that genetics should be able to unravel similar mysteries," says lead scientist Charlotte Lindqvist, an badociate professor biological sciences at the University of Buffalo and visiting badociate professor at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore).
Lindqvist's team is not the first to investigate "Yeti" DNA, but previous projects performed simpler genetic badyzes, leaving important questions unresolved, he says.
"This study represents the most rigorous date badysis of the samples that are suspected to derive from anomalous or mythical" hominid "creatures," Lindqvist and his co-authors write in the new article in Procedures of the Royal Society B ]
Unicorns and megafauna
Science can be a useful tool to explore the roots of myths about large and mysterious creatures, says Lindqvist.
For example, in Africa, the ancient West the legend of an "African unicorn" was explained at the beginning of the 20th century by British researchers, who found and described the flesh and bone okapi, a giraffe relative that looks like a mixture between that animal and a zebra and a horse.  And in Australia, where large people and animals may have coexisted thousands of years ago, some scholars have speculated that references to huge animal-like creatures in aboriginal mythology "Dreamtime" may have arisen from ancient encounters with the megafauna or its remains. known today in the fossil record of Australia.
But while such connections remain uncertain, Lindqvist says his work is straightforward. "Clearly, a large part of the Yeti legend has to do with bears."
For the study, the researchers observed samples, including a piece of skin from the hand or the claw of a "Yeti", part of a monastic relic, and a bone femur fragment of a decomposed "Yeti" found in a cave in the Tibetan plateau. The skin sample turned out to be of an Asian black bear and the bone of a Tibetan brown bear.
The samples of "Yeti" that Lindqvist examined came from the British production company Icon Films, which presented it at the Special Animal Planet 2016 Yeti or not that explored the origins of the legendary being.
Beyond tracing the origins of the Yeti legend, the work is discovering information about the evolutionary history of Asian bears.
in this region are vulnerable or critically endangered from a conservation perspective, but not much is known about their past history, "says Lindqvist." The brown bears of the Himalayas, for example, are in serious danger of extinction. Clarifying population structure and genetic diversity can help estimate population sizes and develop management strategies. "
Scientists sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of 23 Asian bears (including the putative Yetis) and compared these genetic data with those of other bears around the world.
No, the 1951 Explorers Club dinner did not include a mammoth
This badysis showed that while Tibetan brown bears share a common ancestor with their North American and Eurasian relatives, the brown bears of the Himalayas 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.The timing suggests that the expansion of glaciers and the mountainous geography of the region may have separated the bears from the Himalayas from others, leading to a prolonged period of isolation and an independent evolutionary path.
"Additional genetic research on these rare and evasive animals helps to illuminate the environmental history of the region, as well as to have an evolutionary history throughout the world, and additional samples of 'Yeti' may contribute to this work, "says Lindqvist.
Other researchers from the University of Buffalo, SPYGEN in France, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Quaid-i-Azam University, and the Snow Leopard Trust Pakistan program are co-authors of the work.
Source: University at Buffalo