Sorry Kids, Asia's Mysterious Abominable Snowmen Are Just Bears!

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Alleged Yeti footprint found by Michael Ward and photographed by Eric Shipton taken at Menlung Glacier on the 1951 Everest Expedition with Edmund Hillary in Nepal (Photo Credit: Gardner Soule [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Tales of the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, that roams the Himalayas have been a fixture in the Nepalese, Tibetan, and Bhutanese cultures since the 1800s. The belief in the mythical creature spread to the western world in 1951, following British explorer Eric Shipton’s discovery of a massive footprint in the snow, while seeking an alternate route to Mt. Everest. Numerous expeditions, many sponsored by large organizations, spent months searching the mountain ranges for the elusive, ape-like creature. Though none succeeded, the belief in the Yeti’s existence never waned.

In 2013, a University of Oxford study, conducted using two “Yeti” samples, concluded that the creature was a previously unknown hybrid between an ancient extinct polar bear and a brown bear native to the region. However, the result was disputed by experts a year later, allowing the myth of the giant monster to continue.

Artist’s rendition of the mythical Yeti (Photo Credit:Bernell MacDonald via Pixabay CCO creative commons)

To put this mystery to rest once and for all, evolutionary biologist Charlotte Lindqvist and her team from the State University of New York in Buffalo acquired nine fragments of hair, bone, and scat believed to belong to the Yeti. The specimens included samples collected in the 1930s on the Tibetan plateau, relics from famed Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s museum, as well as more recent findings of hair and bone discovered by a nomadic herdsman and some Tibetan spiritual healers. The team also analyzed samples from several native bears — including the Himalayan brown and black bears and the Tibetan brown bear.

To determine each specimen's owner, the researchers turned to the mitochondrial DNA, or mDNA. Located inside the namesake cells, it contains genetic material passed down by mothers. The results of the study, unveiled in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences in November 2017, revealed that eight of the nine so-called Yeti samples came from local bears, while one belonged to a dog!

Himalayan brown bear in Zoo Hluboka in the Czech Republic (Photo Credit: Gardner Soule [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Though the findings may be heartbreaking for Yeti fans, the study did produce the first ever DNA mapping of the critically endangered Himalayan brown bear and the vulnerable Himalayan black bear species. This will allow scientists to better understand the relationship between the rare brown bear subspecies and common bears. It will also help verify the current theory that the subspecies branched out from the others almost 600,000 years ago.

Lindqvist, who plans to continue researching the bear genetics, says, "It was exciting to find that the purported Yeti samples, without doubt, are not strange hybrid bear creatures, but simply related to local brown and black bears.” The expert concedes the study will not alter the Asian belief in the Yeti’s existence, which “is very important to the local culture and folklore.” She does, however, hope that her findings will convince the rest of the world to stop yearning for proof of the mythical beast.

Resources: livscience.com, sciencemag.org, vox.com

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516 Comments
  • Y.I.KWednesday, March 13, 2019 at 10:21 am
    awww its soo cute unlike me :(
    • nicoFriday, March 8, 2019 at 9:00 am
      wow i allways thouht that he was real
      • PatTuesday, February 19, 2019 at 7:29 am
        Yeti vs Yeeti who would win
        • SaraTuesday, January 8, 2019 at 6:08 pm
          Actually, yeti are real. The other scientists near my state found other yeti in some snowy mountain. They found their food ina cave.
          • HiddenKidSunday, December 16, 2018 at 8:37 am
            Yetti''s are famous creatures and only known to be in the Himalayan' s. The myth started in the early 1800's. This message spread to the western part of the world and explorers started investigating the remains of the Yetti. Yet, scientist get DNA of endangered species of bears that thought to be extinct.For the fan's of the yetti, I am sorry to say that Yetti's do not exist.
            • The native boysTuesday, November 13, 2018 at 10:12 am
              That kind cool but why didn't they try to finger it out in the first place like see if there's more foot prints with the foot ?
              • KenFriday, November 9, 2018 at 10:17 am
                that's sad that theirs no yetis.
                • AnimaloverThursday, November 1, 2018 at 9:44 am
                  WOW is all I can say.😀😀
                  • YA YEETThursday, November 1, 2018 at 7:37 am
                    yetis are the most fake thing in the whole world
                    • catlover22
                      catlover22Thursday, May 23, 2019 at 6:05 am
                      Yeah they are.
                    • ZeldaWednesday, October 31, 2018 at 4:21 pm
                      Yetis are cool