Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
New York City, NY, United States (4E) – It seems the fabled Yeti or the Abominable Snowman that’s been the stuff of speculation and legend for over a century should now be renamed the Abominable Snowbear.
Recent DNA tests conducted on eight samples (teeth, bone, hair and skin) said to belong to Yeti turned out to be either from the Tibetan brown bear or the Himalayan brown bear that roam the Himalayas, the highest region in the world.
A study conducted by Charlotte Lindqvist, a geneticist who studies bears, and published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, also led to surprising information about bears living around the Himalayas. Lindqvist is a professor at the University at Buffalo in New York.
She conducted the investigation in answer to a request in 2013 by Icon Films, a film company making an Animal Planet documentary about the yeti, or the mythical apelike creature inhabiting the Himalayas. Icon Films wanted to use science to determine if the yeti is real or was some other creature.
Lindqvist did genetic analysis on DNA from a thigh bone found by a spiritual healer in a cave; hair from a mummified animal in a monastery; a tooth from a stuffed animal collected by Nazis in the 1930s and five more samples.
Her DNA tests proved the thigh bone was from a Tibetan brown bear; the hair from a Himalayan brown bear and the tooth from a dog. The other samples were either from Tibetan brown bears or an Asian black bear.
Lindqvist focused her analysis on DNA in the mitochondria, or the structures in the cell that have their own small pieces of DNA separate from the DNA in chromosomes. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed down the maternal line and is more abundant in cells.
They’re especially useful when working with degraded and decades-old samples such as those Lindqvist worked on. Lindqvist and her team were aided by the fact they had sequenced, for the first time, the entire mitochondrial genome of the rare Himalayan brown bear.
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