Wolfson Fellow’s Yeti Research Draws Worldwide Attention

Published on:

Sunday 20 October

21 October 2013

Research by Professor Bryan Sykes, Wolfson Governing Body Fellow, has concluded that the legendary Yeti may exist and could be a brown bear/polar bear hybrid.

Professor Sykes, as part of the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project, invited individuals and institutions worldwide to submit un-classified organic samples for detailed genetic testing. Using a method that he has developed himself, he subjected a gene in the mitochondrial DNA to testing and compared this to samples in GenBank, the international genetic sequences depository.

These samples were found to be a 100% match to a 40,000 year-old jawbone from a polar bear from Svalbard. At that time the polar bear and the brown bear were separating into different species, and Professor Sykes believes that the Yeti could be a hybrid of the two. Due to the recent nature of the samples, it is possible that these animals still roam the remote Himalayas.

Due to the age of the samples, and the limited amount of DNA available, Professor Sykes wishes to continue his research to further explore these results, and does not “think it means there are ancient polar bears wandering around the Himalayas”. In his view, the next step would be to get an “expedition together to find one and see what one is like in the wild”. His research will be subjected to peer review and published in a journal in the near future.

Professor Sykes' research is the main feature in a current Channel 4 television series: the Bigfoot Files. In yesterday's episode, the backgrounds to the two most important samples, one from the western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles away, were discussed and key Yeti witnesses were interviewed. Yesterday's episode is available online on the Chanel 4 catch-up service, and next week's episode will be screened on Sunday at 8pm.

Update - 5 November 

Professor Sykes' research into two other stories famous in the cryptozoological world were discussed in proceeding episodes of the Bigfoot files. Meeting both Sasquatch Hunters in North America and Almasty Hunters in Russia, he subjected their samples to the same tests. Both episodes are still available on the Chanel 4 catch-up service, and there will be two hour compilation special on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday 17 November. 

Media Coverage

BBC article

Guardian article

Telegraph article

Channel 4 Press release on 'The Wild Woman of the Causcaus' episode of Bigfoot Files