Tales of the yeti, the “Abominable Snowman” of the Himalayas, have been recorded for centuries. Mountaineers tell of coming face-to-face with a hairy, ape-like creature that walks on two legs. There have been blurred photos and even the odd shaky home video. But no one has ever come close to identifying what this mythical creature might be, or even if it is indeed real.
Today, news websites were filled with tales that this mysterious creature may have been identified. Bryan Sykes, a geneticist at the University of Oxford, had obtained DNA from some hair samples from suspected yetis and had pulled back a corner of the curtain from this enduring mystery, identifying the animal and putting the mystery to rest.
Well, sort of. “The principle purpose of the project is not to find the yeti – though it can be interpreted that way and usually is – but really it’s to do a systematic study on what material is alleged to have come from a yeti, because that’s never been done,” Sykes told the Guardian.
One leading theory behind the strange creatures known as yetis (or bigfoots or sasquatches, depending where you are in the world) is that they are surviving relic populations of hominids, an ancient relative of humans, somehow isolated but clinging on to life. To test out what might be possible, Sykes worked with colleagues at the University of Lausanne to put out a call for people claiming to have samples from these sorts of creatures.