Bryan Sykes’ team was in error matching “Yeti” hair samples with a Pleistocene polar bear DNA. It was modern polar bear, instead. The information was published in the following comments to the original paper.
Himalayan ‘yeti’ DNA: polar bear or DNA degradation? A comment on ‘Genetic analysis of hair samples attributed to yeti’ by Sykes et al. (2014)
C. J. Edwards and R. Barnett
Proc. R. Soc. B February 7, 2015 282 20141712; doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.1712
A significant finding, they point out, is “that the two [Yeti] sequences” were incorrectly matched to “a Pleistocene fossil more than 40,000 BP of U. maritimus (polar bear).” Instead, the correct match is with “a modern U. maritimus individual from Diomede, Little Diomede Island, Alaska.”
For clarification, brown bears are Ursus arctos, polar bears are Ursus maritimus, and Himalayan brown bears are Ursus arctos isabellinus.
Sykes’ and his associates then replied:
Response to Edward and Barnett
Terry W. Melton, Michel Sartori, and Bryan C. Sykes
Proc. R. Soc. B February 7, 2015 282 20142434; doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.2434
In response, Sykes, et alii, agreed that their Yeti samples were not from the “jawbone of a Pleistocene polar bear Ursus maritimus, after all. They acknowledged the “matches were instead to a modern specimen of U. maritimus from the Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea reported in the same paper.”
Therefore, the entire conclusion that the two Yeti DNA samples were a 100% match to the possible polar bear-brown bear hybrid, the 40,000 year before present Pleistocene polar bear is wrong. That conclusion has to be thrown out.
But here’s were the media muddles the picture.
The BBC News rushed in with a bit of misinformation, I’m afraid.
With totally no basis in what is being said in the two comments in Proceedings B, the BBC published this:
A theory that the mythical yeti is a rare polar bear-brown bear hybrid animal has been challenged.
Last year, Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes revealed the results of DNA tests on hairs said to be from the Abominable Snowman.The tests matched the samples with the DNA of an ancient polar bear.But two other scientists have said re-analysis of the same data shows the hairs belong to the Himalayan bear, a sub-species of the brown bear.
The BBC merely extends the facts of the paper into the realm of what Edwards and Barnett might theorize:
In their paper, Dr Edwards and Dr Barnett said their tests identified the hairs as being from a rare type of brown bear.The scientists said: “The Himalayan bear is a sub-species of the brown bear that lives in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India.“Its populations are small and isolated, and it is extremely rare in many parts of its range.“The common name for these bears in the region is Dzu-teh, a Nepalese term meaning ‘cattle bear’, and they have long been associated with the myth of the yeti.”
It appears that the reporter or editor at the BBC News dipped into Wikipedia for their second source. There you can find this: “The Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), also known as the Himalayan Red Bear, Isabelline Bear or Dzu-Teh, is a subspecies of the Brown Bear. The bear (as the Dzu-Teh) is thought to be the source of the legend of the Yeti.”
Wikipedia is merely repeating what many of us in cryptozoology, for decades, have considered a possibility.
“Dzu-Teh,” a Nepalese term, has also been associated with the legend of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, with which it has been sometimes confused or mistaken. During the Daily Mail Abominable Snowman Expedition of 1954, Tom Stobbart encountered a “Dzu-Teh.” This is recounted by Ralph Izzard, the Daily Mail correspondent on the expedition, in his book The Abominable Snowman Adventure. The report was also printed in the Daily Mail expedition dispatches on May 7, 1954.
There is no real reason to associate Stobbart’s information with the term “Dzu-Teh,” however, and the use of the term by him, a non-native, can only have been presumptive. Source.
The Melton-Sartori-Sykes reply points out a significant conclusion:
“Importantly, for the thrust of the paper as a whole, the conclusion that these Himalayan ‘yeti’ samples were certainly not from a hitherto unknown primate is unaffected.”
So, we are left with…
Fact: The two samples of Yeti DNA do 100% match a modern polar bear.
Question: What are, at least, two polar bears doing in the Himalayan biological arena in the space of 40 years? And being termed “Yeti” by locals and outsiders?