Is the Yeti an Ancient Polar Bear-Brown Bear Hybrid?

Yeti

A new DNA study has some scientists suggesting that the legendary 'Yeti' of the Himalayas could be a hybrid bear species descended from both the polar bear and the brown bear:

Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the 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 and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles to the east.

After subjecting the hairs to the most advanced DNA tests available and comparing the results to other animals' genomes stored on the GenBank database, Professor Sykes found that he had a 100 per cent match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years - and probably around 120,000 years - a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.

Professor Sykes believes that the most likely explanation is that the animals are hybrids - crosses between polar bears and brown bears. The species are closely related and are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.

Our good friend, cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, has posted about the new finding on his blog, saying that these results could shake up the field of Yeti studies:

For decades, Cryptozoologists have pointed to three kinds of Yetis – a small Yeti, a human-sized Yeti, and a quite large bear-like Yeti. Bernard Heuvelmans, Ivan T. Sanderson, as well as modern researchers, including me, Mark A. Hall, and Patrick Huyghe called this variety the Dzu-Teh. It appears now Dr. Sykes has confirmed there may be a new unknown species or a hybrid bear behind some of the Yeti cases.

According to Loren, more details will be revealed on a British Channel 4 three-part documentary beginning its broadcast this coming Sunday. I wonder if any scientific paper will accompany the TV feature though?

Link: "Has the Yeti mystery been solved? New research finds 'Bigfoot' DNA matches rare polar bear"

Link: Loren Coleman: "Yeti Studies To Be Shaken By Sykes Finding"

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pov's picture
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16 July 2013
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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.”

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If he's being sincere, *that* IMO suggests the mindset of a genuine scientist.

jupiter.enteract's picture
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21 January 2005
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It's important to keep in mind that proving that their DNA samples belong to a rare kind of polar bear doesn't, in itself, "prove" there aren't other unknown species still out there, awaiting discovery. What reason do we have for believing their search for DNA samples was conclusive?

pov's picture
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I agree withe that. I also think that he Prof's comments (if sincere) support that.

emlong's picture
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The creature is way, way too elusive to be a bear. They may very well have some hybrid bear hairs, but I seriously doubt they belong to a yeti, and it is also highly doubtful that some hybrid polar bear is wandering East Texas either.

pov's picture
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emlong wrote:

The creature is way, way too elusive to be a bear. They may very well have some hybrid bear hairs, but I seriously doubt they belong to a yeti, and it is also highly doubtful that some hybrid polar bear is wandering East Texas either.

That, if it is another or a proto species of bear, one cannot make behavioral assumptions based on well-know "modern" species.

Yeti refers specifically to the "Abominable Snowman." So . sorry no ET reference here.

emlong's picture
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The Himalayan yeti is every bit as elusive, paranormal, and cunning as the variations of Bigfoot world wide. If hybrizations of bears suddenly raises IQ by 100 points then genetics is not at all what we think it is. We already have an example of bear hybrization in the polar bear/brown bear crosses that have recently been shot by hunters in the arctic circle. They are still essentially bears - not Bigfoot.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursid_hybrid

pov's picture
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to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

A bit of snark but the point is that you are taking your suppositions as fact. Worse - you're attempting to bolster your initial flawed arguments with those suppositions. As for your contentions about hybridization IMO there's not enough info to use them as "controls." But perhaps. All that was stated as fact is that the hairs have a DNA match to polar bears. The cross with brown bears is - as the article states -supposition.

emlong's picture
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The idea that Yeti could have some polar bear in the gene pool is possible I suppose. I was just taking exception to the idea that Yeti was some kind of close relative to bears or some kind of bear "cross." A bear "hybridization" would still very much be a bear, and Yeti et al are just too unlike bears in general to postulate that they are some kind of bear. There are instances of sightings of what do indeed look like more primitive Yetis, but the tone of the article was that all Yetis might be a direct cross - a bear plus bear cross. That just seemed far fetched to me. By and large the bigfoot family tree is ape-like with ape like features and a bipedal gait.If polar bear can show up in their genetics then it could show up in simian genetics or homo genetics as well - which just sounds like a heck of stretch. On the other hand, if there is a rare Himalayan bear that shows unusual genetics - more power to it. It would be very interesting to find a new bear

TomM's picture
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"...set out to collect and test “yeti” hair samples..."

Well, this just begs the question how do they no conclusively the hair samples are from a..."yeti".

Gee, couldn't the samples that show various bear in them actually be...bear DNA?

emlong's picture
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18 September 2007
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It is like being given one of those goatskin caps certain Himalayan monasteries masquerade as being Yeti and after analyzing the hair concluding that Yeti must be part goat. If I had a sample of hair that appeared to be a hybrid bear I would first conclude that it had to be a bear in spite of whatever else was being alleged about its provenance.

Nostradamus's picture
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... was very good, old fashioned reporting, not resorting to wild speculation or flights of fancy. And of course, the surprise outcome!

Just hope those outside of the UK get a chance to see it.

Nostra