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Science

Yeti Bears Up Under Scrutiny 104

Posted by timothy
from the hey-hey-boo-boo dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "Bryan Sykes of Oxford University has discovered that hairs, ostensibly from the Yeti creature of the Himalayas, were '... genetically identical to polar bear.' What the professor is suggesting is that a rare hybrid of brown and polar bear may be the actual, elusive creature of legend."
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Yeti Bears Up Under Scrutiny

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  • by guytoronto (956941) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:14AM (#45153185)
    How hard can it be to really capture one on film? There are reports almost daily of bears wandering into populated areas looking for food. If this mythical creature actually exists, it should be dead easy to get legitimate proof via baited trap and motion-sensing camera.

    For gawd sakes, the Ewoks managed to capture Chewbacca. Are we really that incapable?
    • by rally2xs (1093023) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:20AM (#45153257)

      What's hard about it is that its in the Hymalyas, and from the sound of things, people that see it in the clear would say, "Oh, that's a bear" and people that have it come out of a snowstorm and try to eat them think its the abominable snowman...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think most people reading and commenting on this don't have much of an idea as to how difficult the terrain is (in the heights where Yeti are said to exist). And exactly how vast the area is. And how sparsely populated it is (human population wise). And how harsh the weather is.

        I was watching a BBC show on the Himalayas on Netflix where the presenter Michael Palin (no relation to Sarah I'm afraid) hikes in Nepal to the Himalayan Base camp. Perhaps second best to actually getting there is to watch the vide

    • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:20AM (#45153263) Homepage Journal

      We tried that, but the UFOs kept stealing the cameras.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sorry, needed them to take pictures of the crop circles...

        Do you wan them back?

    • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:31AM (#45153353) Homepage Journal
      What are you talking about? There's tons of photographs and other physical evidence, confirming the existence of bears. Some bears have been captured, too. At this point, I'd say people claiming bears to be mythical, are he ones who are making extraordinary statements which need backing up.
    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:51AM (#45153555)

      I think Mitch Hedberg summed it up best:

      "I think Bigfoot is blurry, that's the problem. It's not the photographer's fault. Bigfoot is blurry, and that's extra scary to me. There's a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run, he's fuzzy, get out of here."

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Here's the thing, when it wanders into a town or village, people see it clearly and thing 'Oh, another bear'. When it's not very clear, then OMG YETI!

  • I see what you did there, very clever.

  • Everybody knows that when you cross a brown bear and a polar bear you get a chupacabra.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      2nd cousin of Chewbacca.

    • by unitron (5733)

      Everybody knows that when you cross a brown bear and a polar bear you get a chupacabra.

      If you cross either one you'll be incredibly fortunate if all you get are severe lacerations.

  • Errr... wat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Slartibartfast (3395) <ken@j[ ].org ['ots' in gap]> on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:34AM (#45153393) Homepage Journal

    If it's "genetically identical" to a polar bear, well... doesn't that mean it's a polar bear?

    • Re:Errr... wat? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:48AM (#45153529)

      If it's "genetically identical" to a polar bear, well... doesn't that mean it's a polar bear?

      Prof Sykes found that he had a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back to between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago - a time when the polar bear and closely related brown bear were separating as different species.

      So it is a polar bear, just not a modern polar bear.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think it means that the vendor selling the "Authentic Yeti Hair" is really selling polar bear hair.

      • by bobbied (2522392)
        Well that much is obvious.... Shesh...
      • by sjames (1099)

        So where did he get the time machine? The hair was genetically identical to an ancient polar bear from back before it was fully distinct from brown bears.

        So the Authentic yeti hair is from a bear but it is a scientifically interesting bear related to the modern polar bear.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Thanks to chimerism or mosaicism we know people can have different DNA in different places. This animal could have polar bear DNA in the fur and differences elsewhere.

      This sample of a bit of fur from one animal does not represent all yeti so we know almost nothing more than we did before this find.

      • While 'possible', when you mix the extreme rarity of chimerism (35 humans in US), that mosiacism is an internal mutation (not a mix of disparate DNAs) and the rarity of yeti sightings in the first place, it gets very unlikely either of these are the answer.

        This bit of fur is indeed indicative of a all current 'evidence' for yeti. Every case examined thus far has turned out to *not* be a yeti, but a common creature. Or a crappy, blurry photo, or half melted and indistinct footprints. Etc. Etc. Etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tompaulco (629533)
        Maybe the yeti was wearing a polar bear pelt.
    • That would be the common-sense version, but rarely doe that end up being the final answer.

      Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones - all basically the same, just in different geographical locations.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Monkeys are 98.5% genetically identical to humans. Does that mean we're monkeys? Yes we are but we're a different species. All the domestic dogs in the world are the same (Canis Lupus Familiaris) yet you have pugs and you have great danes, those are called breeds or when we don't artificially select for them, subspecies.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Makes me wonder how a polar bear would end up in the Himalayas, though indeed it's what I was thinking first, a polar bear that wandered a bit far away. Save the difference in air pressure the climate is probably quite similar. Food may be an issue, no seals in the Himalayas.

      Maybe even more realistic than a hybrid brown/polar bear.

  • Hmmmm .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:48AM (#45153523) Homepage

    What the professor is suggesting is that a rare hybrid of brown and polar bear may be the actual, elusive creature of legend

    Why does this sound like he's made up another undocumented creature as his explanation?

    This sounds like he either tested a sample which was from a hoax, or he's just making shit up.

    I'm going with "researcher tests hoax, comes up with own unfounded explanation to get publicity". Because there's no more evidence for the existence of this creature in the Himalayas than the yeti.

    • Re:Hmmmm .... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:00PM (#45153627)

      Pizzly Bear [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Hmmmm .... (Score:4, Informative)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:04PM (#45153677)

      Polar/brown bear hybrids are rare... not undocumented

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly [wikipedia.org]–polar_bear_hybrid

      • apparently Slashdot hates hyphens in links

        It's en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly–polar_bear_hybrid

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Polar/brown bear hybrids are rare... not undocumented

        In the Himalayas?

        Yes, there are hybrids, but whether or not that has anything to do with this is another thing.

        Like I said, he's postulated another thing for which there isn't direct evidence in the Himalayas (what with it being very far from where you find polar bears) -- at which point, he's just suggested another theory.

        So, yes, he tested *something*, and we don't know where that really came from. He's then suggesting the existence of something else i

        • He compared the DNA sample to an ancient polar bear from about the time the species were separating. So it seems to be more of a classification stretch (saying the ancient species is the same as the modern polar bear) than a case of putting a creature in a location far from where it currently is. Furthermore, the hair sample is from a bear shot 40 years ago, which predates the ubiquity of cameras (they were common, just not *everywhere* like today) and a species more closely related to the polar bear could

      • by b4upoo (166390)

        Actually the cross bred polar bear, brown bear has been studied and well documented. It occurred due to a hunter being charged with killing a polar bear with the hunter insisting it was a brown bear which was legal to take. Genetic testing clearly proved that the cross bred bear existed. The theory is that the wealthy used to keep private zoos in the 19th century and that one or two of these bears were created in captivity and either escaped or were released into the wild. From that point on natur

        • by unitron (5733)

          ...The best policy in dealing with these cross bred bears is never, ever, find one.

          Especially if they've been bred to be really cross.

    • Maybe he's watched a few too many episodes of Lost...
    • by shaitand (626655)
      There's DNA taken from two distinct samples taken 800 miles apart, one them from an actual mummified animal body that anyone can test and examine.

      That seems like more evidence than there is for the yeti to me. Also, I do agree this seems like more of a blow to the skeptics than the believers because while it seems the creature was not a large manlike primate there was in fact something up there. The problem with skeptics is that if everyone listens to them nobody investigates and finds the truth behind anyt
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Because polar bears and brown bears sometimes intermix. They aren't mythical creatures like the Yeti.

      "Because there's no more evidence for the existence of this creature in the Himalayas than the yeti."
      you mean beside hair and DNA?

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:52AM (#45153567)

    The yeti was snacking on a polar bear (or Himalayan Goral FTFA..) while out for a walk.

  • Obligitory xkcd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wormholio (729552) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @11:56AM (#45153601)
  • You know, I've seen black bear prints that look remarkably similar to human prints. I'm serious, they can really look alike under the right conditions, such that there's no obvious impression of claws...

  • by TheCarp (96830)

    So you mean to tell me that the himilays have polarized killer bears?

    Scratch that off my vacation destinations.

  • by WilliamBaughman (1312511) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @01:30PM (#45154773)

    I guess this isn't entirely surprising considering that "Yeti" fur has been identified as coming from the Tibertan blue bear [wikipedia.org] as well. It is very interesting how closely and recently related the brown bear is to the polar bear, though, and to these mountain dwelling species as well. I did not know that. The Tibetan Blue Bear has only been rarely sighted since it was documented in the 1850s. It's not out of the question that there are other, non-classified bear relatives in the high mountains.

    The Tibetan sand fox [wikipedia.org] and other fox species contribute to the Yeti legend as well. They occasionally make human-like cries. Snow leopards do to. I've heard a snow leopard cry at a the Central Park Zoo; it sounded like a child shrieking only much louder and more piercing. If you heard one of these animal species during a blizzard, especially combined with certain related optical phenomena (or actually seeing a sub-species/relative of brown bear), you could get the strong impression that there was another person out there. Or something like a person but definitely not. You certainly wouldn't find a person after it had been snowing, the animal having moved on, burrowed, or appearing only as an animal.

    My view's - not my employer's. I wonder when Microsoft will take a stance on the Yeti question...

  • ...as actually having anything to do with "yetis".

    I don't think we need DNA evidence to demonstrate that people are perfectly capable of making up monster folklore without anything more convincing than a tall tale.

    Replacing a non-existent creature of folklore with a purported half breed of a creature that occurs nowhere near a specific location really isn't accomplishing much, especially when people have long been motivated to produce "evidence" before the advent of DNA testing. The polar bear doesn't live

  • Given the terrain, maybe when people meet it the Yeti bear rears up and roars ... which does look a lot like the classic Yeti image. Just add some longer white hair and bazinga!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...impossible! Global Warming/Global Cooling/Global Weirding/Climate Change/George Bush already killed all of the polar bears.

  • Publishing your research on BBC television? Is that how it works now? Do the comments, questions and rebuttals have to appear on BBC TV also, or can they appear on someone else's TV show?
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      The last time I checked, the BBC News running a story about your work doesn't make your work into a BBC TV show.

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