Last year, B Sykes, a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford, and colleagues studied two hair samples from the Himalayan region - one sample came from an animal that was shot about 40 years ago in northern India; the other had been found in Bhutan.
The samples that had been attributed to "anomalous primates" (yetis, bigfoots, and others).
On this basis, Sykes concluded that a currently unknown type of bear must inhabit that portion of Asia.
Perhaps this unknown bear inspired the legend of the yeti, a bipedal beast from the Himalayas, the researchers had said in the study published in the journal the Proceedings of The Royal Society B.
However, another study by CJ Edwards at the University of Oxford in 2014 found that the sample that matched Sykes and co-authors' Himalayan ones, was in fact, from a present-day polar bear from Alaska, not from a fossil.
They hypothesised that the genetic material in the samples attributed to an unknown type of bear might have been misleading because of degradation.
Sykes and co-authors, however, have continued to maintain that their Himalayan samples must be from an unknown type of bear.
A new analysis by Eliecer E Gutierrez, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, and Ronald H Pine, affiliated with the Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas, have concluded that the relevant genetic variation in brown bears makes it impossible to assign, with certainty, Sykes and co-authors' samples to either that species or the polar bear.
In fact, because of genetic overlap, the samples could have come from either one.
Because brown bears occur in the Himalayas, Gutierrez and Pine stated that therefore there is no reason to believe that the samples in question came from anything other than ordinary Himalayan brown bears.
The study was published in the journal ZooKeys.
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