sciencehabit writes: In North America, they're called Bigfoot or Sasquatch. In the Himalayan foothills, they're known as yeti or abominable snowmen. And Russians call them Almasty. But in the scientific laboratory, these elusive, hairy, humanoid creatures are nothing more than bears, horses, and dogs. That's the conclusion of a new study—the first peer-reviewed, genetic survey of biological samples claimed to be from the shadowy beasts. To identify the evolutionary source of each sample, the team determined the sequence of a gene—found inside the mitochondria of cells—that encodes the 12S RNA, which is often used for species identification. Unlike standard DNA, mitochondrial genes are passed only from mother to offspring.
Seven of the samples didn’t yield enough DNA for identification. Of the 30 that were sequenced, all matched the exact 12S RNA sequences for known species, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Ten hairs belonged to various bear species; four were from horses; four were from wolves or dogs; one was a perfect match to a human hair; and the others came from cows, raccoons, deer, and even a porcupine. Two samples, from India and Bhutan, matched polar bear 12S RNA—a surprising finding that Sykes is following up on to determine whether some Himalayan bears are hybrid species with polar bears.