Much to the disappointment of cryptozoology fans everywhere – that's the study of 'hidden' animals such as Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster – a scientist from Oxford University is claiming that the legendary ape-like Himalayan monster, the yeti, may be nothing more than a type of bear.
Professor Bryan Sykes has analysed hair samples from the mummified remains of a yeti-like creature shot by a hunter in the mountains four decades ago, and a single hair that was found ten years ago in a forest in Bhutan by a group of yeti-hunting film-makers.
He compared DNA from these samples with sequences from other animals in the international DNA database and found a 100 per cent match with a jawbone from an ancient polar bear found in Norway, dating back tens of thousands of years. This is around the time that polar bears and brown bears are thought to have separated into two species, although they're very closely related and can interbreed where their territories overlap.
Sykes thinks that the most likely explanation for the yeti myth is that the animals are actually some kind of brown bear/polar bear hybrid rather than an ape. But as nobody has seen a yeti alive or conclusively got a body, it's hard to know for sure. And it doesn't mean that there are rogue ancient polar bears roaming the mountains today – he thinks it's more likely that bears (if they exist) mistaken for yetis today are hybrids.
This isn't the first time that analysis of alleged yeti samples have failed to come up with evidence for that it's an ape-like species – in 2008, a similar analysis on hairs from the north Indian Himalayas turned out to be from a type of mountain goat, rather than the ape-related species that many cryptozoologists believe Bigfoot to be.
This research also comes with a bit of a scientific 'health warning' as the results haven't yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so other scientists haven't been able to see the data and comment on them. But once that happens, we'll know more about the likelihood of the bear theory being correct...