A widely reported study that examined hairs purportedly belonging to a Yeti is again under fire, facing criticism from new research out today that asserts the original examination’s findings are wrong.
Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes and his colleagues examined several hair samples purported to have come from the Himalayan Yeti, as the Inquisitr previously reported, publishing their findings last year. After testing the samples, Sykes’ team asserted that several of the “Yeti” hairs actually originated from an ancient polar bear that once lived in Norway. As LiveScience notes, the researchers postulated that the hair samples may have come from a hybrid of the polar bear and a Himalayan Brown Bear, further noting that such an animal could be responsible for legends of the Yeti.
— Alix Culbertson (@alixculbertson) March 16, 2015
A new study, however, authored by Eliecer Gutiérrez of the Smithsonian Institution and Ronald Pine, a zoologist at the University of Kansas, asserts that the RNA that Sykes’ findings were based on isn’t unique enough to rule out the brown bear as the origin of the hairs. Gutiérrez noted that Sykes’ study used only a fragment of a gene to determine that the Yeti hairs originated from a bear otherwise believed to be extinct.
“There is essentially no reason to believe that they [the hairs] belong to a species other than the brown bear,” Gutiérrez said.
According to NBC News, Sykes is standing by his original Yeti study, pointing out that the new research, published in ZooKeys, is a set of statistical findings. Real progress on the topic of the Yeti, he asserted, can only be made in the field.
“The explanation by Gutierrez and Pine might be right, or it might not be. The only way forward, as I have repeatedly said, is to find a living bear that matches the 12S RNA and study fresh material from it. Which involves getting off your butt, not an activity I usually associate with desk-bound molecular taxonomists.”
Sykes further described the cryptozoologists who went to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti and obtained the suspect hairs as “the real heroes of the piece.”
— Eric Berger (@chronsciguy) March 16, 2015
The current study is the second to contest Sykes’ findings, after a 2014 letter from two researchers who claimed that the Yeti hair samples had not been sufficiently or properly examined.
[Image via the Telegraph]