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DNA Test For Yeti Hair

Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 24th, 2008

full1050234yeti1.jpg

Technician John Wells looks at the hairs through a microscope as Anna Nakaris, anthropolgist, and Ian Redmond, primatologist, look on.

The hunt for the mysterious Yeti – otherwise known as the Abominable Snowman – has frustrated scientists for decades.

Yesterday, scientists at Oxford Brookes University joined in the hunt after being given a number of hair strands taken from what is purported to be a Yeti-like creature in India.

The Brookes boffins used high-powered microscopes to analyse the samples found in the West Garo jungle of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.

They compared the suspected Yeti strands to samples taken from primates, bears, dogs, yaks and humans, which were provided by the Natural History Museum in Oxford.

After the microscope tests have been carried out, the hairs will be sent away to a laboratory for DNA testing.

Dr Anna Nekaris, of the university’s anthropology department, said: “It’s exciting to be asked to take part in this research.

“We put the hairs in clear nail varnish because that helps us to see them more clearly under the microscope.

“Hair cuticle patterns differ greatly from species to species when you look at them under a microscope.

full1050235yeti.jpg

An artist’s impression of the beast

“If we look closely at the specimens we have from the alleged Yeti we can see if they are identical to a primate or a dog or a bear.

“If it is a primate we can’t identify, then that would be an interesting first step.”

Dr Nekaris was joined by leading primatologist Ian Redmond OBE, whose book The Primate Family Tree is out later this year.

He said: “If these hairs do turn out to come from a Yeti then I will have to quickly update my book.

“Recently a new species of macaque monkey was discovered in India and new species of primates are being discovered every year.

“It may be that the region this animal is inhabiting is remote enough for it to remain undiscovered so far.”

The little known Indian version of the legendary ape-like creature is called mande barung – or forest man – and the black and grey animal is thought to stand about 10ft tall.

The hair was discovered earlier this year by BBC reporter Alastair Lawson, who went on an expedition to find the animal after a number of reported sightings.

A forestry officer had seen the creature in the same location and gathered the hair from the area where it had been standing.

Mr Lawson brought the hair back to England to be analysed and contacted Mr Redmond, who then linked up with scientists at Oxford Brookes.

Mr Lawson said: “The forestry officer said he had seen the Yeti two days in a row and persuaded a zoologist to come with him to collect the hairs.

“I’m not convinced that the Yeti exists, but we might have come across a primate that has not been discovered before.

“You have to bear in mind that the legend of the Yeti is a large part of the people’s culture in this region and those traditions are deeply respected.

“The Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston was once given hairs in Pakistan which were thought to have been taken from a Yeti and they turned out to be hairs from a goat’s scrotum.”

About the Yeti The Yeti is an apelike animal said to inhabit the Himalaya region of Nepal and Tibet.

The scientific community has largely dismissed the Yeti as a fraud but it remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology, the study of uncomfirmed animals.

The Yeti was dubbed the Abominable Snowman in 1921 after an Everest expedition found large footprints at 21,000ft. Sir Edmund Hillary also reported large footprints on Everest in 1953.

In December last year, American TV presenter John Gates reported finding 33cm-long footprints in the Everest region of Nepal.

Bigfoot, sometimes known as Sasquatch, is an alleged ape-like creature said to inhabit the Pacific northwest region of the United States and the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Alleged witnesses have described large eyes, a pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead.

Source: “‘Yeti hairs’ examined,” by Andrew Ffrench, Oxford Mail, July 24, 2008.

Loren Coleman – has written 5491 posts on this site.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


11 Responses to “DNA Test For Yeti Hair”

  1. cryptidsrus responds:

    This story reminds of the recent article about the great William Dranginis, who sent alleged found “Bigfoot hair” to three different labs for testing and got three different results. The first test came back as llama hair. Second one—red-meat eating creature similar to llama. Third, wolf or dog.

    The point I’m trying to make is—if this an unknown creature, aren’t scientists blowing against the wind trying to identify whatever it is against known species?

    Whatever happened to “unknown?”

  2. Pygar responds:

    I can only say how pleasantly surprised I am that the scientists involved appear to be so open-minded to the possibility that the hairs could be from a genuine Yeti. Fingers crossed.

  3. DWA responds:

    “It may be that the region this animal is inhabiting is remote enough for it to remain undiscovered so far.”

    Not required.

    All you need is:

    1. It’s not too abundant.
    2. It’s so much a part of local culture that natives don’t make much of it (as the Sherpas don’t of the yeti).
    3. If you say you’ve seen one to a scientist, and you aren’t yourself a scientist, you aren’t taken seriously. (If you are a scientist, suddenly you aren’t to be taken so seriously.)

    All you need. Case in point: the sasquatch. (OK, 2. may not apply, except for those small towns in which everyone either has seen one, or knows someone who has).

  4. mystery_man responds:

    Cryptidsrus- I’ll try to answer what I think you were asking. The reason it is important to test against the known is three-fold.

    First, if the hair does not match up to any known creature, then it is more likely from an unknown source and this points more to the actual existence of a cryptid. So in this case, it could be seen as a process of elimination. If through comparison it is not the hair of a creature known to inhabit the area (and not from a buffalo rug:) ), then it follows that we are probably looking at something new.

    Second of all, even an unknown creature is going to have some basis in the natural world as we know it; evolutionary connections, patterns, adaptations, certain paradigms that it is going to fit into. Unless it is a complete one-off freak of nature, a cryptid is likely going to have some sort of basis in what we know of other animals’ physiology, ecology, and evolution. By comparing with the “known”, we can perhaps better understand were this “unknown” might fit into to what we know about life on Earth.

    Third, we have procedures for dealing with the known, ways to test it, techniques built on scientific research that has been done before, a foundation if you will. If we had to start from scratch on every scientific experiment every single time, we would never get anywhere. So we use past research to guide us and this by definition deals with the “known”. This research will further be amended as we uncover new information, but for now they are using ways of identifying based on proven techniques.

    Does this help you see why it is important to test against the known? If this is not what you meant, I apologize. I’m just trying to illustrate what I see as the basis of what they are doing.

  5. DWA responds:

    mystery_man: exactly.

    cryptidsrus: if this is “an unknown creature,” then there is no way, ever, to prove it exists, short of a specimen. Something needs to be put before science that will compel science to take a hard look. The only way something like hair will interest science is if scientists are satisfied that it is (a) genuine hair, and (b) demonstrably, i.e., to their satisfaction, shown to come from nothing known to exist.

    In order to show (b), you have to compare it to the things known to be, and show that, even though it’s genuine animal hair (the first thing you have to prove, for which you need the characteristics of known animal hair as your reference), it isn’t any of them.

    Science has to work within the framework of the known; that’s the foundation on which knowledge is built. If there’s no foundation, science doesn’t pursue, which is why we don’t pour billions into following up, say, alien abductions.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- Right.

    I’ve made a comment before that you liked and I will repeat it here for cryptidsrus. Basically what I said was that science is a series of provisional truths (the known) which are amended as new information is uncovered. (DWA, did you ever use that comment, by the way?) It is through paradigms, evidence, what we know, that we pursue this new information and the unknown passes into the realm of the known, thereby increasing our understanding of the world. Without looking at what is known, the concrete, we cannot really build upon our knowledge.

    So we uncover evidence, look into it, and use that to pursue research that can supplement our previous assumptions. In order to do that, we need evidence to start with, without which we cannot even begin to start a course of pursuing new knowledge (the unknown). For example in this case with the Yeti, we can start by looking at these hairs carefully, comparing them with other animals, through which we might come to the demonstrable conclusion that there is something strange out there that needs to be confirmed through yet more investigation. But all further investigation flows from what came before, the “known”. Do you see what I mean? Changes to what we know comes in steps, with careful, scientific research, consideration, and rejection or assimilation of the incoming facts before moving on.

    This is one of the foundations of science. I think in many ways, jumping to look at the unknown without a foundation and forming conclusions without evidence to justify them is the exact opposite of what science does.

  7. Lyndon responds:

    If this turns out to be ‘unknown’ or ‘unidentifiable’ it would be interesting if they then compared it to the alleged Yeti hair brought back from Bhutan a few years ago and analysed by Dr Brian Sykes.

  8. Lightning Orb responds:

    If a “primate that has not been discovered before” is confirmed, how similar would it have to be to people’s reports to actually be considered an official Yeti (or other similar ape of legend) ?

  9. DWA responds:

    “(DWA, did you ever use that comment, by the way?)”

    Actually, I’m not remembering a specific instance, mystery_man.

    But you may be sure it’s right on the tip of my tongue for whenever that conversation about “what is science?” comes up. Maybe I move in the wrong circles. :-D

    Truth (Pluto, the Ninth Planet; coelacanth, a 65-million-year-old fossil) is ALWAYS provisional, always ready to be modified by what we NOW know. (African elephant? Two, maybe three species, let’s see here. Eastern coyote, check. Eastern cougar, maybe next).

    But you have to start there. Or else, “unknown” is, well, ghosts, orbs, dimensional shifting, time travel, and all that other stuff science has no time for because of everything there still is to follow up.

    ANOTHER mouse lemur? Right on it! :-D

  10. cryptidsrus responds:

    Mystery_Man:

    Thanks for the post. I totally agree with what you’re saying. What I was saying (sorry if I did not get my point across) was that when one gets contradictory information about a sample brought in by somebody, like Dranginis’s sample, people are still willing to “jump on the bandwagon” and assign an identity to something that has not been fully determined yet. Instead of saying it is a “llama,” or “dog,” how about just saying it is unknown? In no way that means it is Ol’ Hairy. That’s all I’m saying.

    The remark was basically aimed at “debunkers” who, when shown something that is not readily identifiable, go ahead and say “well, it’s this and this.”

    “We can’t prove that it is Bigfoot, but we can’t prove what it is at all, either, so it is was probably an otter.” :)

    I agree with you again that I did not make myself clear. Sorry about that.

    You and DWA rock.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    DWA- I see. I thought you said you wanted to use what I said on some forum or other. I’m still flattered from when you said it was the best summation of “what is science” that you ever heard.

    cryptidsrus- Ok, I see what you’re saying. I’m amused myself at how many vastly differing results could be derived from one sample. Are you sure the researchers in the Dranginis case made a final decision rather than a provisional one, though? DNA can be corrupted, degraded, and the sample can be contaminated, which can all affect the test results. However in such a case as that, where the results are not so clear, I would think that most researchers would tentatively suggest what they are fairly sure it might be rather than making a concrete claim. So “probably” or “likely” the hair of a dog rather than “It IS” the hair of a dog. I agree, no firm stand should be made until things are absolutely sure, such as in the case you mentioned. If that is what they did, shame on them.

    Anyway, thanks for the compliment! I guess what you said here didn’t really need my long responses, but I love to try and share what I know when I can. (and can be long winded about it, I know.) :)



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