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Yeti May Be A Big Brown Bear, DNA Tests Reveal
New DNA research on hair samples may have finally solved the mystery of the yeti, according to scientists.
Tests found a genetic match with an ancient polar bear, with researchers believing there could be a sub-species of brown bear in the High Himalayas that has been mistaken for the mythical beast.
Sighting of the yeti, also known as the "Abominable Snowman" or "Bigfoot", have been recorded for centuries in the Himalayas, with local people and mountaineers claiming to have come face-to-face with hairy, ape-like creatures.
Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, set out to collect and test "yeti" hair samples to find out which species they came from.
In particular, he analysed hairs from two unknown animals, one found in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh in India and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles to the east.
He subjected the hairs to the most advanced DNA tests available and compared the results with other animals' genomes stored on the GenBank database.
Professor Sykes found that he had a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard in Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years - a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.
Prof†Sykes believes the most likely explanation is that the animals are hybrids - crosses between polar bears and brown bears.
The species are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.
He said: "This is an exciting and completely unexpected result that gave us all a surprise.
"I don't think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas.
"It could mean there is a sub-species of brown bear in the High Himalayas descended from the bear that was the ancestor of the polar bear.
"Or it could mean there has been more recent hybridisation between the brown bear and the descendent of the ancient polar bear."
A photograph of a "yeti" footprint, taken by British climber Eric Shipton at the base of Mount Everest in 1951 sparked a global mania.
Legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who became the first man to climb Everest without oxygen, has studied yetis since he had a terrifying encounter with a mysterious creature in Tibet in 1986.
He uncovered an image in a 300-year-old Tibetan manuscript of a "Chemo" - another local name for the yeti, with text alongside it which was translated to read: "The yeti is a variety of bear living in inhospitable mountainous areas."
Prof Sykes added: "Bigfootologists and other enthusiasts seem to think that they've been rejected by science.
"Science doesn't accept or reject anything, all it does is examine the evidence - and that is what I'm doing."