Scientists dismantled on Wednesday the myth of the abominable snowman, the huge but furtive human environment rumored for centuries to inhabit inaccessible parts of the Himalayas.
It turns out that they report in the Journal of the Royal Society Proceedings B, that the much sought-after creature, also known as the Yeti, is in fact a bear.
Or three different bears, to be precise: Asian black, Tibetan brown and Himalayan brown.
Each of these subspecies inhabits different niches on the roof of the world, and all of them have probably been confused at one time or another with the "Wild Man of the Snows," the scientists said.
"Our findings strongly suggest that the biological foundations of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears," said lead scientist Charlotte Lindqvist, an badociate professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Buffalo.
The study is not the first to reduce the myth to have data, but accumulates an unprecedented A large amount of genetic evidence obtained from bones, teeth, skin, hair and fecal samples previously attributed to the cryptic creatures.
Artifacts from private collections and museums around the world, including a monastic relic that comes from a Yeti leg – were, in reality, the remains of 23 different bears, they found.
Lindqvist and his team reconstructed the complete mitochondrial genomes of each specimen, which led to important discoveries about the region's beleaguered carnivores and their evolutionary history.
"The brown bears roaming the high altitudes of the Tibetan plateau, and the brown bears in the western mountains of the Himalayas, seem to belong to two separate populations," he told AFP.
"The division occurred about 650,000 years ago, during a period of glaciation."
The two subspecies have probably remained isolated from each other since then despite their relative proximity, she speculated.
Today, the Himalayan brown bear – Ursus arctos isabellinus – is listed as "critically endangered" in the International Union for the Conservation of the Red List of Nature.
Its reddish coat is lighter in color than the darker Tibetan brown bear, which also sports a white collar around its neck.
Throughout the 20th century, the fascination in the West -especially in the United States and Great Britain- with the legend of the Yeti remained intense.
In a book that recounts his journey through the Lhagba Pbad The Mount Everest fence in 1921, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Howard-Bury describes "footprints rather like those of a barefoot man".
He attributed them to a large wolf through the soft snow, but his Sherpa guides said that he left them a "metoh-kangi", or "bear man snowman".
The report of a member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1925 of a human figure crossing a high-altitude glacier further nourished distant imaginations.
At least two expeditions were mounted in the 1950s in search of the already legendary creatures. raising footprints and specimens of hair, with claims of sightings that continue throughout the second half of the century.
"Scientific work can help explore myths like the Yeti," Lindqvist said charitably.
"Even if there is no evidence of the existence of cryptids" – creatures whose existence remains controversial – "it is impossible to govern completely" they live, "he added.
" People love the mystery ".