The last great cryptozoology news from the homeland of the Yeti – of the discovery of the Giant Panda in 1936 – may have more in common with what we are going to be learning scientifically about one type of Abominable Snowmen than anyone could have guessed.
Be prepared for Yeti studies to be rocked by Bryan Sykes’ Oxford University DNA research findings. Reportedly, as will be revealed on a British Channel 4 three-part documentary beginning its broadcast this coming Sunday, the genetics has shown there may be a bear in the mix of some of the larger Yeti accounts.
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. Sykes will be following up his studies with a new book scheduled for next year.
Yahoo News had more details on the origins of the sample:
In the early 1970s, a French mountaineer trekking through the rugged Ladakh region (at the western edge of the Himalayas) encountered a hunter who had saved the remains of a bizarre, bear-like animal — about the size of a human being — that he had recently shot. The mountaineer saved a sample of the hair, which he later passed to Sykes.
Sykes found the Ladakh hair sample especially intriguing. “The fact that the hunter … thought this one was in some way unusual and was frightened of it, makes me wonder if this species of bear might behave differently,” he told The Telegraph. “Maybe it is more aggressive, more dangerous or is more bipedal than other bears.”
Sykes began by comparing that hair sample, and the 10-year-old sample from Bhutan, against a database of collected animal DNA. “In the Himalayas, I found the usual sorts of bears and other creatures amongst the collection,” said Sykes, as quoted in Phys.org.
“But the particularly interesting ones are the ones whose genetic fingerprints are linked not to the brown bears or any other modern bears, [but] to an ancient polar bear.”
That polar bear lived in Norway between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago, and its DNA is a 100-percent match with the recent hair samples from Ladakh and Bhutan. “This is a species that hasn’t been recorded for 40,000 years,” Sykes said. “Now, we know one of these was walking around 10 years ago.”
Of course, there is many items that I foresee being mistakenly shared via the media and the way that news like this will be interpreted by the general public.
There will be the natural confusion about Yetis being “white,” when the native peoples say they are brown-reddish brown. When people hear the word “polar bear” from the media, the public will create mental images of “white bears,” even though “ancient polar bears” genetically linked to brown bears may have been brown. This will need to be sorted out.
People will make the mistake thinking the Sykes results explain all “Yeti” accounts, when it is clear there are several kinds of Yetis.
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.
I was interviewed for the documentary regarding hair samples from the Tom Slick expeditions, but they are not the ones analyzed, as the bear aligned examples.
The findings are exciting news for cryptozoology.
Congratulations to Dr. Bryan Sykes and his team worldwide.
(BTW, yes, the giant panda is a bear too.)
Thank you for the first thoughtful and interesting article about Sykes’ findings.
There’s at least three other aspects to this story though isn’t there Loren?
1) We’ve got Sykes’ previous analysis of the Sun newspaper’s Siberian sample turnin’ out to be the extremely rare North American black bear Ursus Americana which was nevertheless still in existence and now we’ve got an ancient Norwegian proto polar bear turnin’ up in the form of a sample in Ladakh 40 000 years after they’re supposed to’ve gone extinct surely all underlines the dangers inherent in insisting extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof because if Sykes’d said “Prove to me Yetis exists THEN I’ll test” we wouldn’t've known only 10 years ago Sval the proto polar bear was doin’ an impression of Paddington Hits the Ashrams.
2) but when you then factor in his mate Ursus the American was acting out his own version of Shaft Goes to Siberia you have the very familiar but according to skeptics supposedly impossible scenario two rather large vertically prone species have been surviving in the wild in almost certainly tiny numbers completely undetected by modern science.
3) worse you have the possibility if only the skeptics hadn’t spent so much time try’n'o ridicule the legitmate research of others like yourself thereby warding off more mainstream researchers we might’ve been able to put in place provisions to protect two species which may well be by now really extinct.
So, Sykes took a known “bearlike” animal fur sample and another sample from Bhutan and found both to be from bears. Hmm, not seeing how this per se means there is no Yeti or that the Yeti is really just a bear. It’s interesting how “debunking” type findings of limited scientific value (in terms of the cryptid) are emblazoned in the media. I don’t know if the Yeti exists as it’s own species, but I’m not really blow away by this “discovery,” (again, in terms of the Yeti.)
On the other hand, the possible discovery of a previously unknown bear species in the Himalayas is kind of neat. Just as the discovery of a large sturgeon at the bottom of Loch Ness would be neat. Neither would explain the cryptids, but they would be significant finds.
I’m puzzled too.
That a form of yeti might be a bear has been in the mix for decades. We’re surprised if it turns out to be based on fact?
If someone actually shot something that to him was not a species of animal he recognized, does it matter whether it was ape, bear or antelope? No. It’s a pretty cool new find. Incredible? No. Science has been calling its myopia “frontier” ever since there has been science. Haven’t cooler heads been saying for decades that the Himalaya haven’t been adequately explored for us to think we’ve seen everything? Hunters don’t put money in their pockets or food on the table unless they know the local fauna pretty well. It’s doubtful this was an “oh well” circumstance.
In strict logical terms, the skeptical take on Sykes is the exact equivalent of me going out to the Great Plains, asking for bison hair, getting pronghorn hair from a few hundred people…and declaring the bison mythical.
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