Yeti. Sasquatch. Bigfoot. Both enthusiasts and scientists alike hope to answer the question: “Do they exist?”
Thus far, most scientific analysis on so-called evidence of Sasquatches has not turned up a positive result for a new, large, primate-like species, but that’s not stopping scientists from continuing to test theories. In fact, genetic analysis of such samples was recently published in a peer-reviewed journal for the first time.
The team analyzed 30 different hair samples said to be from yetis from different sources around the world. Though their research did not confirm the existence of the creature, it did find something else.
Using a rigorous decontamination method and conducting RNA sequencing to identify species origin from the hair samples, the team found a few samples were closely related to a prehistoric polar bear. All the other samples were from known mammals that are still living, like cows, dogs, sheep and more.
According to the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, some of the samples were a 100 percent match to the DNA recovered from a more than 40,000-year-old Pleistocene fossil of Ursus maritimus. This finding, the study suggests, could mean that descendants this prehistoric polar bear could still be living in the Himalayas.
“With the exception of these two samples, none of the submitted and analysed hairs samples returned a sequence that could not be matched with an extant mammalian species, often a domesticate,” the study authors wrote. “While it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support. […] The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims.”
“Modern science has largely avoided this field and advocates frequently complain that they have been ‘rejected by science,’” the study authors wrote in the paper’s introduction. ”This conflicts with the basic tenet that science neither rejects nor accepts anything without examining the evidence. To apply this philosophy to the study of anomalous primates and to introduce some clarity into this often murky field, we have carried out a systematic genetic survey of hair samples attributed to these creatures.”
Still, Bryan Sykes from Oxford University, who lead the study, admitted to the Guardian that he would not have embarked on such research “before I had an established reputation as a scientist.”
“There are very few reputable scientists who have ever been willing to go publicly on record as far as bigfoot and yeti,” anthropologist Todd Disotell of New York University, who was not involved in the research, told Science magazine. “This study did it right, reducing contamination and following all the standard protocols.”
Even though the study did not establish the existence of Sasquatch, Sykes told NBC News he doesn’t think “this finishes the Bigfoot myth at all.”
“What it does do is show that there is a way for bigfoot enthusiasts to go back out into the forest and get the real thing,” he said.