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Scientists launch DNA search... for Bigfoot

Researchers are calling for hair samples to test for evidence of the mythical creature’s existence.

A Natural History Museum London researcher with a model showing what the mythical Yeti could have looked like
A Natural History Museum London researcher with a model showing what the mythical Yeti could have looked like
Image: Neil Munns/PA Archive/Press Association Images

COULD DNA EVIDENCE prove that Bigfoot exists? That’s the question posed by researchers calling for hair samples which they hope could solve the mystery.

In a project announced this week, Oxford University and Lausanne Museum of Zoology scientists appealed to museums, scientists and Yeti aficionados to share hair samples thought to be from the mythical ape-like creature.

New genetic tests will be done on just a few strands of hair and should be completed within weeks. Even if the sample is judged to come from an unknown species, scientists should be able to tell how closely it is related to other species, including apes or humans.

“If the Yeti is real and somebody has found bits of their hair, you should be able to tell from the DNA in the hair if this is actually a Yeti,” said Mark Thomas, a professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London. He is not connected to the Bigfoot project.

Bryan Sykes of Oxford University said the group had already received many offers of samples to test, including blood, hair, and items supposedly chewed by Bigfoot. Sykes and colleagues plan to sift through the samples for the next few months before deciding which specimens to test. They will then publish their results in a peer-reviewed journal.

‘Miserable existence’

But Thomas was unsure how likely it was anyone might have actual Yeti hairs. Some scientists theorise Yetis are either a distinct hominid species, or a mix between homo sapiens and Neanderthals or other species.

“If Yetis have survived for the last 30,000 years, they have probably had a pretty miserable existence and are a small population vulnerable to extinction,” Thomas said. “It’s not as insane an idea as many might think, but the chances are pretty small.”

Sykes said he has always been intrigued by stories of Yeti sightings, but would rely on science rather than such tales to prove if the stories are credible. “It’s not really possible to fabricate DNA evidence,” he said.

He acknowledged that the chances of proving the existence of a new Yeti species are low, but said that the study was still worthwhile. “If we don’t look, we’ll never find out,” he said.

David Frayer, a professor of biological anthropology at Kansas University, told The Associated Press in an email that “No serious scientist (would) treat Yeti as a worthy research project.”

He said previous tests on supposed Yeti hairs have already been done – “and they turned out to be from a bison.”

Read: Siberian officials claim to have found Yeti tracks>

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