What Does Science Say About The Yeti?
Is the Yeti real? With the recent discovery by the Indian army of possible yeti tracks, the creature has found its way into headlines all over.
Is Yeti real or imagined? For decades, adventurers, scientists and explorers have tried to solve this Himalayan puzzle. The ‘bigfoot’ mystery got fresh fuel with new photos posted by the Indian Army from its official Twitter handle on April 29. While claims and counter-claims have been part of the Yeti lore, the army’s claim forced the world to sit back and take notice. So far, several people and the international media have not seen the claim in positive light. Scientists have been trying to solve this issue with just a picture or two serving as the part of the Himalayan jigsaw puzzle.
Amid this fog, let’s try and see the photos from the scientific perspective. There have been several claims of ‘Yeti’ sightings. But only two credible studies looked into the proofs collected from the region. One was done in 2014 and the other in 2017.
In the first ever systematic genetic survey, the 2014 paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B studied mitochondrial RNA sequencing to see if the Yeti claims were right. Two Himalayan samples, one from Ladakh, the other from Bhutan, had their closest genetic affinity with a Palaeolithic polar bear, Ursus maritimus. Otherwise the hairs were from a range of known extant mammals. In simpler words, the samples were that of bear and not of Yeti as claimed.
Another study in 2017 published by Proceedings of the Royal Society B had a smiling finding. Researchers analysed 24 mitochondrial DNA samples of hair, tissue, bone, and faeces of Himalayan brown bears and purported Yeti collected from the Tibetan Plateau-Himalaya region. “ Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences determined clade affinities of the purported yeti samples in this study, strongly supporting the biological basis of the yeti legend to be local, extant bears,” the 2017 study said.
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