The abominable snowman’s existence still remains a mystery, but recent DNA analysis has shed light on the evolutionary ‘family tree’ of bears. 

A team of scientists currently studying nine samples of apparent yeti, says the samples are not from a large hominin but actually mostly belong to bears. The results have been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Dr Charlotte Lindqvist, an expert on bear genomics and co-author of the research from the University at Buffalo, explained, “It demonstrates that modern science can really try and tackle some of these mysteries and unsolved questions that we have.”

This is the first time that it has been suggested that the yeti is more ursine than abominable. 

Lindqvist was left diassatisifed after a recent study found that whole most of the samples came from known animals, the team suggested that they might be from an unknown species of bear, or a descendant from a hybrid of a polar and brown bear.

“I just didn’t trust these claims,” she said. So she went on to examine nine samples gathered by a company shooting a film on the topic. Sources included mummified animals found in monasteries, hair collected by nomadic herdsmen, bone from a spiritual healer and a stuffed “yeti” from the Messner Mountain Museum. 

In addition, they analysed 15 other samples from zoos, national parks and museums, most of which were known to be from Himalayan brown bears. 

The analysis included the sequences of DNA from the energy powerhouses of the cell known as mitochondria, and involved a comparison of all of the samples with genetic data from a large international database. 

“Of those nine samples, eight of them matched local bears that are found in the region today,” added Lindqvist. “The purported yetis from the Tibetan plateau matched Tibetan brown bears, the ones from the western Himalayan mountains matched the Himalayan brown bear, and then, at possibly slightly lower altitude were Asian black bears.”

The findings received a mixed response, with the film company leaving slightly disappointed, but the new samples helped the team to gain new insights into the evolutionary “family tree” of bears. 

Whilst she feels there is more to discover with the yeti, Jonathan Downes, director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, concluded, “I think there is still a possibility that there are unknown species of higher primate which are still awaiting discovery in what used to be Soviet central Asia.”