The faithful who believe in the existence of mystical mountain creatures known as “Yetis” will be disappointed to find out what scientists recently discovered about the legend.
The huge, hairy, ape-like creatures that have intrigued mountaineers, researchers and curious folk in general have been revealed to be not that mystical after all.
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“This study represents the most rigorous analysis to date of samples suspected to derive from anomalous or mythical ‘hominid’-like creatures, strongly suggesting the biological basis of the yeti legend as local brown and black bears,” a report from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B concluded.
The legend of the elusive Yeti describes the creature to be a shy, furry, human-like “snowman” who lives in mountainous Nepal and Tibet.
In the local Sherpa language, the name “Yeti” translates to “that thing there.” However, it was mistranslated over the years to become known as the “Abominable Snowman” in the West, according to CNN.
The creatures were originally believed to be fictional characters in stories the Nepalese would tell children to keep them from wandering into the wild. But when explorer Eric Shipton took photographs of curiously large foot prints on the lower part of a glacier in the Himalayas, and the pictures were published in newspapers around the world in 1951, researchers began to consider that the legend may be reality.
One famous explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary — the first Westerner to reach the summit of Mount Everest — reportedly found a tuft of long, black, thick and coarse hair at 19,000 feet on Everest. Hillary, however, never found any other evidence of a Yeti’s existence.
In 1959, the U.S. State Department apparently believed that the creatures existed, as the agency issued rules on how someone should behave if coming across one.
The memo from the American Embassy in Katmandu, Nepal, “Regarding Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal Relating to Yeti,” mandates that hunters must obtain an official permit and pay a Yeti fee in order to locate one. Hunters were also under strict instructions not to kill the creature, if it were found, and to photograph or capture it, instead.
Any news about the discovery of a Yeti must also have been cleared with the Nepal government first.
In the years since, several purported Yeti samples have been given to museums, private collections and universities, which scientists used to try to get to the bottom of the creature’s true identity.
After analyzing the DNA of nine “Yeti” specimens, scientists determined that five of the creatures were actually Tibetan brown bears, two were Himalayan brown bears, and one — a relic that looked like a fossilized human hand — came from an Asian black bear.
The ninth sample — part of a tooth belonging to a stuffed Yeti in the collection at the Reinhold Messner Mountain Museum, turned out to be from a dog, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Charlotte Lindqvist, a bear genomics researcher at the State University of New York at Buffalo who led the study, told the Times that Yetis were not on her radar from a scientific perspective.
But, when the opportunity to learn more about the genetic diversity of bears in this remote region of the world arose, she happily signed on to the project.
She hoped that her findings about the Yeti would also help “put some attention on this group of bears that have evolved independently for hundreds of thousands of years” but have been reduced by half over the last century due to habitat loss, poaching and intense hunting by humans.
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