Oxford University looks for Yeti DNA

Posted by Emma Woollacott

In an effort to settle things once and for all, Oxford University scientists are calling for samples of so-called Yeti remains for genetic investigation.

In a collaboration with the Lausanne Museum of Zoology, they're inviting anyone with cryptozoological material to submit samples, particularly hair shafts, for rigorous genetic analysis.

Stories of such creatures abound, from the Yeti itself to the 'bigfoot' or 'sasquatch' in America, 'almasty' in the Caucasus mountains and 'orang pendek' in Sumatra.

"Theories as to their species identification vary from surviving collateral hominid species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, to large primates like Gigantopithecus widely thought to be extinct, to as yet unstudied primate species or local subspecies of black and brown bears," says Professor Bryan Sykes, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford.

"Mainstream science remains unconvinced by these reports, both through lack of testable evidence and the scope for fraudulent claims. However, recent advances in the techniques of genetic analysis of organic remains provide a mechanism for genus and species identification that is unbiased, unambiguous and impervious to falsification."

Late last year, a DNA analysis was carried out on one so-called Yeti specimen, a finger originally collected in Nepal in the 1950s. It turned out to be human.

But many other supposed specimens remain in collections around the world; indeed, the Museum of Zoology in Lausanne itself already holds a considerable archive.

"It is possible that a scientific examination of these neglected specimens could tell us more about how Neanderthals and other early hominids interacted and spread around the world," says Sykes.