Genetic evidence shows that yetis are simply bears

I doubt that many of us accept the existence of yetis, those Himalayan creatures that are supposed to be hairy apes, more or less humanoid. Previous hair and footprint analyses have been inconclusive, though a 2014 paper identified hairs from Ladakh and Bhutan, supposedly coming from yetis, as samples from  paleolithic bears (maybe polar bears or polar bear hybrids) and dogs. Whatever they were, that study showed they certainly weren’t primates.

Now, according to CNN and other sources, and resting on a new study in Proc. Roy. Soc. (reference and free access below), the issue is resolved. Performing mitochondrial DNA analysis on 24 samples, including a diversity of hairs said to be from yetis, the study of Lan et al. showed that all the “yeti” samples fell firmly in the group containing living bears, including these four bear lineages: Himalayan brown bear, Tibetan brown bear, Continental Eurasian brown bear and Asian black bear. No “yeti” sample fell outside these groups. You can see the phylogenetic trees, and the location of the “yeti” samples falling in these groups, in the paper, and the diagram below shows where the samples were collected (all falling within historical ranges of living ursids).

There’s not much more to say except this sentence: “The ‘yetis’ are just bears that we already know about.” Oh and this: “science has settled the issue.”

h/t: David

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Lan, T. et al. 2017. Evolutionary history of enigmatic bears in the Tibetan Plateau-Himalayan region and the identify of the yeti. Proc. R. Soc. B 20171804 on line, http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.1804

23 Comments

  1. Posted November 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    It would have been nice to think that Gigantopithecus still survived on some remote corner of the earth.

    • Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and it would be nice to think that Philomena Cunk will send me a valentine.

      • Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

        She’s in a BBC sitcom called Motherland at the moment.

        The actress who plays her, that is.

      • Posted November 29, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        Well perhaps you will when she sees how obviously infatuated you are with her…..but then maybe she’ll change her mind when she questions why the word ‘Gigantopithecus’ immediately brought her to mind.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 30, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        There is a far higher probability of a “Philomenatine” card than finding the Gigantopithecus.

    • Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      I remember depictions of Gigantopithecus in my youth. Then, it was drawn as a big biped like bigfoot or the yeti. We now know it was really a type of large gorilla.

  2. nicky
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Of course, these samples were not from the real Yeti, but from bears, as that mitochondrial DNA analysis actually confirms.
    I’ll only take these studies seriously if they get to analyse the hair from a real Yeti!

    • NoJoy
      Posted November 29, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      Ah, the no true Yeti fallacy. 🙂

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I saw this in the news and rejected it outright…

    Now it’s on WEIT…

    [checks calendar]

    Nope, not April 1st…

    OK then.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Think I see a typo : “identity” and not “identify”

  5. Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I loved the novelisations of the two Sixties Doctor Who stories featuring the yeti, ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ (that’s the one where the yeti take over the London Underground. Don’t laugh, it’s great!)

    The yeti were truly terrifying. Savage claws, glowing red eyes.

    Then the BBC released the surviving episodes on DVD and damn, were they cuddly!

  6. Posted November 29, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    How do we know yet don’t wear bearskin coats? Why assume only humans need extra protection?

    If I snagged my leather jacket on a barbwire fence scientists might conclude I’m a cow.

  7. Taz
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    No armored bears?

  8. Darren Garrison
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The claim in the 2014 paper that the hairs were from paleolithic bears has problems:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4366689/

    “Our results demonstrate that the very short fragment of the 12S rRNA gene sequenced by Sykes et al. is not sufficiently informative to support the hypotheses provided by these authors with respect to the taxonomic identity of the individuals from which these sequences were obtained. We have concluded that there is no reason to believe that the two samples came from anything other than Brown Bears.”

  9. Jacques Hausser
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Hairs of Yeti remains are not always from bears. Milinkovitch et al were the first to analyse mtDNA from yeti hairs and discovered it was very closely related (actualély nested in) Perrisodactyla. Considering that the Yeti was usually described as a primate, they wondered at the power of convergent evolution and at the prescience of captain Haddock who called at the yeti: “you odd-toed ungulate!”

    M.C. Milinkovitch et al (2004): Molecular phylogenetic analyses indicate extensive
    morphological convergence between the “yeti” and primates. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31 (2004) 1–3

  10. Posted November 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    A similar explanation probably holds for Sasquatch in the western US — the area where bigfoot sightings have occurred is a close match to the range of black bears.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2009.02152.x/abstract

  11. lkr
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    “..the area where bigfoot sightings have occurred is a close match to the range of black bears”

    A better match would be that sasquatch are 100 percent sympatric with the range of drunk hunters with very poor photographic skill and worse aim with their rifles.

  12. John Dentinger
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m absolutely certain (kinda sorta) that the Infowars crowd will see this “scientific” study as a false flag operation, designed to obscure the truth: the (Chinese?) government is secretly developing a race of giant humanoids to wipe out all WASPs. Probably in cahoots with Little Rocket Man.

  13. starskeptic
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but what one species could posses the characteristics of all these different ‘bears’?
    Checkmate, skeptics!!!

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted November 30, 2017 at 1:59 am | Permalink

      Maybe four different species?

      • starskeptic
        Posted November 30, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        Precisely – only a Yeti could appear to be four different species…and all of them bears!!!

  14. phil
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    “[S]cience has settled the issue.”

    As many of the comments above allude, that is unlikely to be the case for True Believers ™.

  15. busterggi
    Posted November 29, 2017 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Damn, when nazi scientists are right it ticks me off.


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