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Abominable Snowman actually a bear? A geneticist makes the case.

Abominable Snowman: Using DNA samples from purported yeti pelts, a British geneticist has suggested that the mythical apelike beast is actually a heretofore undiscovered species of bear. 

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The mystery of polar bears' origins has long puzzled scientists. While some researchers proposed they diverged recently, others have suggested that brown bears and polar bears split off at least 4 million years ago.

Paul Nicklen, BBC Wildlife photographer of the year

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A geneticist believes he may have begun to solve the riddle of one of most enduring myths in all of cryptozoology: the yeti, or Abominable Snowman, of the Himalayas.

The mystery has swirled through the snows of the mountainous region for centuries, since Alexander the Great searched for a yeti on his eastward march across the Indus Valley. In the 1950s, even respected mountaineers such as Sir Edmund Hillary claimed to have seen footprints of the legendary beast, which reportedly walks upright and is covered with hair.

Now, using DNA analysis from two different hair samples — one from a strange animal shot by a hunter about 40 years ago in northern India's Ladakh region, and a second sample found in a Bhutan bamboo forest 10 years ago — geneticist Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford claims to have linked those samples to the jawbone of an ancient polar bear found in Norway. [Rumor or Reality: The Creatures of Cryptozoology]

A rare bear?

In the early 1970s, a French mountaineer trekking through the rugged Ladakh region (at the western edge of the Himalayas) encountered a hunter who had saved the remains of a bizarre, bear-like animal — about the size of a human being — that he had recently shot. The mountaineer saved a sample of the hair, which he later passed to Sykes.

Sykes found the Ladakh hair sample especially intriguing. "The fact that the hunter … thought this one was in some way unusual and was frightened of it, makes me wonder if this species of bear might behave differently," he told The Telegraph. "Maybe it is more aggressive, more dangerous or is more bipedal than other bears."

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