A British scientist appears to have solved the mystery of the Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, by matching the DNA from hairs believed to be of Himalayan Yetis to a breed of Arctic bears that lived thousands of years ago.
Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes said his findings show that the legendary ape-like beast was related to a prehistoric animal and not to a modern Himalayan bear. He also suggested that the creature might still be roaming the mountains.
"There's more work to be done on interpreting the results. I don't think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas," Sykes said, according to CNN. "But we can speculate on what the possible explanation might be. It could mean there is a subspecies 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 hybridization between the brown bear and the descendant of the ancient polar bear."
Sykes’ findings were derived from DNA tests on two strands of brown-colored hair from two unidentified animals, one found in the western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, about 800 miles to the east. And, the DNA structure of the two strands matched a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, thought to be 40,000 years old.
"I put out a call for Yeti, Bigfoot, and Sasquatch hairs in 2012, and I received a good response from all over the world,” Sykes explained to NBC News about how he got the hair. “Of the two samples in this study, one came from a Yeti mummy in Ladakh. It was from the mummified body that was shot 40 years ago by a local hunter. He kept it because he did not think it was a bear from its behavior. To him it was a Yeti.
“The other sample was a single hair from the other end of the Himalayas, from the Kingdom of Bhutan. It was found by the king’s own personal Yeti guards," Sykes said.
According to reports, Sykes’ findings will be the focus of a documentary series called "Bigfoot Files," which will premiere Sunday on Britain's Channel 4.
Although the existence of Yetis has been shrouded in mystery, experts in the field have not dismissed Sykes’ findings. 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," Gilbert, who was not involved in the study, told Associated Press. "If he had said it's some kind of new primate, I'd want to see all the data."
Keerthi Mohan is an IBTimes reporter covering entertainment and human interest stories.