First Atlantis, Now a Yeti

This is what I think a Yeti looks like.
This is what I think a Yeti looks like.
Way back in 2011 I wrote a little story about how Atlantis had been found. And not in any bizarre location thousands of miles from nowhere, but in Spain by a scientist named Richard freund. Research is ongoing but, except according to some irate occultists, it seems to be the real deal as described by Plato circa 360 BC. However, since reality is boring to some folks, there are those left unsatisfied by the discovery. There is also nothing I can do about that. It is what it is. The same basic rules apply to Bigfoot and its ilk. As I wrote back in 2012, there would be some evidence beyond a blurry pic. There would need to be, at least, 1,000 of the creatures to keep the species alive. Since there are millions of humans in the northwest, someone would have found some evidence by now. A skeleton, a scat pile, something. The total amount of evidence to date? Zero. The Yeti, however, is a slightly different story. As noted in that fine documentary, Monsters, Inc., there are millions of miles of nothing in the Himalayan mountains. And, as science has discovered over the last few decades, when you get into unspoiled lands you can find stuff that shouldn’t be there. Still, the whole Yeti thing seemed a touch far fetched.

In an effort to try and settle the matter once and for all genetics professor Bryan Sykes asked people who claimed to have samples of Yeti hair and so forth to send it to him for testing. Many did. And much to his surprise he found something. Since Jill Lawless broke the story, I’l let her tell you.

A British scientist says he may have solved the mystery of the Abominable Snowman — the elusive ape-like creature of the Himalayas. He thinks it’s a bear.

DNA analysis conducted by Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes suggests the creature, also known as the Yeti, is the descendant of an ancient polar bear.

Sykes compared DNA from hair samples taken from two Himalayan animals — identified by local people as Yetis — to a database of animal genomes. He found they shared a genetic fingerprint with a polar bear jawbone found in the Norwegian Arctic that is at least 40,000 years old.

Sykes said Thursday that the tests showed the creatures were not related to modern Himalayan bears but were direct descendants of the prehistoric animal.

He said, “it may be a new species, it may be a hybrid” between polar bears and brown bears.

“The next thing is go there and find one.”

Sykes put out a call last year for museums, scientists and Yeti aficionados to share hair samples thought to be from the creature.

One of the samples he analyzed came from an alleged Yeti mummy in the Indian region of Ladakh, at the Western edge of the Himalayas, and was taken by a French mountaineer who was shown the corpse 40 years ago.

The other was a single hair found a decade ago in Bhutan, 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the east.

Sykes said the fact the hair samples were found so far apart, and so recently, suggests the members of the species are still alive.

“I can’t imagine we managed to get samples from the only two ‘snow bears’ in the Himalayas,” he said.

Finding a living creature could explain whether differences in appearance and behavior to other bears account for descriptions of the Yeti as a hairy hominid.

“The polar bear ingredient in their genomes may have changed their behavior so they act different, look different, maybe walk on two feet more often,” he said.

Sykes’ research has not been published, but he says he has submitted it for peer review. His findings will be broadcast Sunday in a television program on Britain’s Channel 4.

Tom Gilbert, professor of paleogenomics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said Sykes’ research provided a “reasonable explanation” for Yeti sightings.

“It’s a lot easier to believe that than if he had found something else,” said Gilbert, who was not involved in the study. “If he had said it’s some kind of new primate, I’d want to see all the data.”

Sykes’ findings are unlikely to lay the myth of the Yeti to rest.

The Yeti or Abominmable Snowman is one of a number of legendary ape-like beasts — along with Sasquatch and Bigfoot — reputed to live in heavily forested or snowy mountains. Scientists are skeptical, but decades of eyewitness reports, blurry photos and stories have kept the legend alive.

“I do not think the study gives any comfort to Yeti-believers,” David Frayer, a professor of biological anthropology at the University of Kansas, said in an email. But “no amount of scientific data will ever shake their belief.”

“If (Sykes’) motivation for doing the analyses is to refute the Yeti nonsense, then good luck,” he said.

Sykes said he was simply trying “to inject some science into a rather murky field.”

“The Yeti, the Bigfoot, is surrounded in myth and hoaxes,” he said. “But you can’t invent a DNA sequence from a hair.”

A new species of bear. As soon as I read it it all made sense. As the good doctor noted bears do walk on their hind legs. They can cover tremendous amounts of ground when they forage and they tend to shy away from humans. A subspecies in that vast emptiness would be pretty easy to hide.

Plus bears do mimic human expressions and are pretty clever. Since people thought for centuries that manatees were mermaids it’s easy to see how they could think a bear on its hind legs was a furry person.

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