Geographical Index > United States > Himalayan Region (International) > Article # 248
Media Article # 248
Friday, April 06, 2001
Scientists Claim Yeti DNA Evidence
By Rossella Lorenzi
April 6 — British scientists in search of the yeti have found the best evidence yet for the existence of the legendary creature — a strand of hair, the DNA of which has proved impossible to identify.
The tall, nocturnal, hairy creature who many say dwells around the forests and mountains of the Himalayas supposedly inhabits the hollow of a cedar tree in the Kingdom of Bhutan, on the eastern side of the Himalayas.
Working on a documentary for Channel 4, the British expedition team found a long black hair on the tree bark after Sonam Dhendup, the King of Bhutan's official yeti hunter for the past 12 years, led them into a forest where locals claimed to have discovered a piece of a mysterious skin.
The results of DNA analysis on the hair follicle have surprised even skeptical researchers.
"It's not a human, it's not a bear, nor anything else that we've so far been able to identify," Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford, told New Scientist.
In the documentary, one eyewitness — a former royal guard called Druk Sherrik — described his encounter with the Migyur, as the Buthanese call the yeti. "It was huge. It must have been nine feet tall. The arms were enormous and hairy. The face was red with a nose like a chimpanzee."
In the past, traces of hair and footprints believed to be from the yeti were in fact from bears, langur monkeys, himalayan goats and pigs. But the British finding raise the possibility that the sample belongs to an unknown species.
"We have never encountered any DNA that we couldn't recognize before," said Sykes, a pioneer of DNA identification as the first genetist to extract DNA from archaeological bone specimens.
Inside the cedar tree, Rob McCall, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Oxford, found scratch marks resembling claw. Nearby, he saw odd footprints just a couple of hours old. They showed a short print with a narrow heel and toe pads.
"Yeti was an official protected species in the Kingdom of Nepal until the mid late 1950's, so someone obviously believes in them," says Lama Surya Das, one of the foremost American Lamas in the Buddhist tradition and author of Wisdom Tales from Tibet.
"I've also seen scalps at monasteries high in the Himalayas, but I think they belonged to species of Himalayan red bear. I personally believe that the Yeti, like the Native American's legendary Susquatch (Bigfoot) are mostly figments of the imagination."
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