The Himalaya's mysterious Abominable Snowman might harbor an even deeper mystery, according to an Oxford University geneticist who says he has sequenced the mythic beast's DNA and proved its existence.
For centuries, native people in the snow-peaked Himalaya Mountains have described an elusive apelike animal that roams the range, and which they call the yeti.
Bryan Sykes, a professor of genetics at Oxford, sequenced DNA taken from two unidentified animals killed in Himalaya ranges of India and Bhutan in recent decades.
The small samples - including a single hair found a decade ago, and the jawbone of a mummified animal discovered in the 1970s by a hunter - were compared to a database of thousands of known animals, and the results were intriguing.
The samples suggest, according to Sykes, that the animal many people have reported seeing may be an unknown species of bear, related to an extinct polar bear.
"This is a species that hasn't been recorded for 40,000 years. Now, we know one of these was walking around ten years ago. And what's interesting is that we have found this type of animal at both ends of the Himalayas. If one were to go back, there would be others still there," Sykes told reporters.
Sykes believes the animal could be a hybrid descended from two species of bear, an extinct polar bear and a closely related brown bear.
He said accounts of hunters, mountaineers and others who claim to have seen a yeti, may have come face to face with an unknown bear that acts strangely.
"The fact that the hunter, who had great experience of bears, thought this one was in some way unusual and was frightened of it, makes me wonder if this species of bear might behave differently. Maybe it is more aggressive, more dangerous or is more bipedal than other bears," he said.