Scientists have tested relics from collections and museums around the world and found they're mostly just bears. But the testing had important finds for the region's endangered carnivores.
A rigorous genetic analysis of purported Yeti specimens revealed they almost all came from bears, according to a research paper published on Wednesday.
Scientists sourced nine artifacts from private collections and museums around the world, including bone, tooth, skin, hair and fecal samples and a monastic relic meant to be a Yeti paw. Genetic sequencing showed the artifacts actually came from the remains of several different bears and one dog.
"Our findings strongly suggest that the biological underpinnings of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears," said lead scientist Charlotte Lindqvist, associate professor at the University of Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
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Three separate bear species were responsible for the artifacts: the Asian black, the Tibetan brown and Himalayan brown.
Lindqvist said the study published in the Royal Society journal "Proceedings B" was the most rigorous analysis to date of purported Yeti specimens. The study involved sequencing mitochondrial DNA of samples from Tibet, India and Nepal as well as from black, brown and polar bear populations.
The Yeti, also known as Abominable Snowman, is an ape-like creature rumored for centuries to inhabit the Himalayan region. Various groups have claimed to found footprints or seen the creature roaming the mountainous area. The creature is separate from North America's Sasquatch and Bigfoot folklore.
Lindqvist said the study had lead to important discoveries about the region's carnivores and their evolutionary back story.
"Brown bears roaming the high altitudes of the Tibetan Plateau, and brown bears in the western Himalayan mountains, appear to belong to two separate populations," she told AFP news agency.
"The split occurred about 650,000 years ago, during a period of glaciation."
She speculated the two sub-species had probably remained isolated from each other ever since despite their relative proximity.
aw/kl (AFP, Reuters)