Friday, August 21, 2015

Taliban Fears Thwart Yeti Expedition


An planned expedition to the remote mountains of northern Pakistan has been cancelled in fear of attacks by local Taliban fighters. The trip was an attempt to prove the Yeti's DNA theory put forth by Oxford University genetics scientist Bryan Sykes:

An expedition led by one of the world's most acclaimed mountaineers to find out once and for all whether the yeti exists has been thwarted by the Taliban.

The trip to the remote mountains of northern Pakistan was to have been led by Reinhold Messner, a 70-year-old Italian who was the first person to climb Everest without oxygen and to scale each of the world's tallest 14 peaks.

He hoped to gather evidence in support of a theory put forward by Oxford University scientists that the yeti may be an ancient hybrid of a brown bear and a polar bear.

He and his team wanted to capture a wild bear in the mountains of northern Pakistan and take blood and other samples that they could then compare with the remains of purported yetis collected over the years.

The expedition was supposed to have been conducted in secrecy because of security fears.

But the project was revealed by the Austrian press and has been aborted out of fear that news may have reached Taliban fighters in the wilds of Pakistan. "Right now everything has been cancelled because people who should not have known about the expedition obviously managed to find out about it," Mr Messner said, in what was interpreted as a veiled reference to the Taliban. "But I remain available for this interesting project."

He planned to garner information that might back up a theory posited by Bryan Sykes, a professor of genetics at Oxford University, that the yeti may be an as-yet undiscovered hybrid, the product of breeding between brown bears and polar bears tens of thousands of years ago. - Search For the Yeti Scuppered by Taliban

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Scientists challenge 'Abominable Snowman DNA' results

A theory that the mythical yeti is a rare polar bear-brown bear hybrid animal has been challenged.

Last year, Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes revealed the results of DNA tests on hairs said to be from the Abominable Snowman.

The tests matched the samples with the DNA of an ancient polar bear.

But two other scientists have said re-analysis of the same data shows the hairs belong to the Himalayan bear, a sub-species of the brown bear.

The results of the new research by Ceiridwen Edwards and Ross Barnett have been published in the Royal Society journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Among Dr Edwards' previous work was an attempt to carry out DNA analysis of a sample taken from bones of a polar bear washed into caves in north west Scotland 18,000 years ago.

According to legend, the yeti is a large and elusive ape-like beast.

For many years experts have been seeking a scientific explanation for the Abominable Snowman.

Prof Sykes, along with other genetics experts, conducted DNA tests on hairs from two unidentified animals, one from Ladakh - in northern India on the west of the Himalayas - and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles (1,285km) further east.

The results were then compared with the genomes of other animals stored on a database of all published DNA sequences.

The scientists 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.

The species are closely related and are known to interbreed where their territories overlap.

The sample from Ladakh came from the mummified remains of a creature shot by a hunter around 40 years ago, while the second sample was in the form of a single hair, found in a bamboo forest by an expedition of filmmakers about 10 years ago.

The samples were subjected to the most advanced tests available.

Prof Sykes said the most likely explanation for the myth was that the animal was a hybrid of polar bears and brown bears.

The research was reported widely by the media last year and, in July this year, published by the Royal Society.

However, following re-analysis of the same data, Dr Edwards and Dr Barnett argue that the hybrid bear does not exist in the Himalayas.

They said the previous research mistakenly matched DNA to an ancient Pleistocene polar bear, instead of a modern polar bear.

In their paper, Dr Edwards and Dr Barnett said their tests identified the hairs as being from a rare type of brown bear.

The scientists said: "The Himalayan bear is a sub-species of the brown bear that lives in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, in remote, mountainous areas of Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India.

"Its populations are small and isolated, and it is extremely rare in many parts of its range.

"The common name for these bears in the region is Dzu-teh, a Nepalese term meaning 'cattle bear', and they have long been associated with the myth of the yeti."

The yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, is said to be a large ape-like beast that roams the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet.

Prof Sykes and the other members of the team behind the earlier yeti hairs analysis have acknowledged that there was an error caused by an incomplete search of the DNA database used.

However, they said in a statement: "Importantly, for the thrust of the paper as a whole, the conclusion that these Himalayan 'yeti' samples were certainly not from a hitherto unknown primate is unaffected."

The response added: "We stressed in the original paper that the true identity of this intriguing animal needs to be refined, preferably by sequence data from fresh tissue samples derived from a living specimen where DNA degradation is no longer a concern."
Other hair samples said to belong to the yeti have been scrutinised by experts before.

In 2008, scientists in the US examined hairs given to the BBC which some had claimed were from a yeti.

The scientists concluded that the hairs - obtained from the north-east Indian state of Meghalaya - actually belonged to a species of Himalayan goat known as a Himalayan goral.

In 2007, Dr Edwards began a process to extract DNA from what are believed to be the only polar bear remains to be found in Britain.

The skull, of which only a part survives, was discovered at the Bone Caves in Inchnadamph, in Assynt, Sutherland, in 1927.

Prehistoric remains of animals - including an almost complete skeleton of a brown bear - and humans have been uncovered in the caves.

Dr Edwards hoped to shed light on what the polar bear was doing in Assynt 18,000 years ago.

However, DNA had not survived in the bone fragment.

Dr Edwards was also involved in a DNA study of ancient brown bear bones that suggested the maternal ancestors of modern polar bears were from Ireland.

Previously, it was believed that today's polar bears were most closely related to brown bears living on islands off the coast of Alaska. - Scientists challenge 'Abominable Snowman DNA' results

Monsterology: The Complete Book of Monstrous Beasts

Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science

The Bigfoot Book: The Encyclopedia of Sasquatch, Yeti and Cryptid Primates

Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter


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