Sightings of the Yeti or Abominable Snowman — a mysterious, ape-like creature said to inhabit the high mountains of Asia — have been reported for centuries. Footprints have been spotted, and stories have been passed down from generation to generation.
Now, a new DNA study of purported Yeti samples from museums and private collections is providing insight into the origins of this Himalayan legend.
The research, published November 29, 2017 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, analyzed nine alleged Yeti specimens, including bone, tooth, skin, hair and fecal samples collected in the Himalayas and 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 Himalayan brown bear, and the other six from Tibetan brown bears.
Biologist Charlotte Lindqvist, of University at Buffalo, led the study. She said in a statement:
Our findings strongly suggest that the biological underpinnings of the Yeti legend can be found in local bears, and our study demonstrates that genetics should be able to unravel other, similar mysteries.
Lindqvist’s team is not the first to research Yeti DNA, but past projects ran simpler genetic analyses, which left important questions unresolved, she said.
This study represents the most rigorous analysis to date of samples suspected to derive from anomalous or mythical ‘hominid’-like creatures…
Clearly, a big part of the Yeti legend has to do with bears.
The researchers investigated samples such as a scrap of skin from the hand or paw of an alleged Yeti — part of a monastic relic — and a fragment of femur bone, allegedly from decayed Yeti, found in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau.
The skin sample turned out to be from an Asian black bear, and the bone from a Tibetan brown bear.
The Yeti samples that Lindqvist examined were provided to her by British production company Icon Films, which featured her in the 2016 Animal Planet special Yeti or Not, which explored the origins of the fabled being.
Bottom line: A new DNA study of purported Yeti samples says that the samples came from bears.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.