More things in heaven and earth...

Monday 7 July 2014

Bryan Sikes, a professor of genetics at Oxford University, has analysed 57 samples of "yeti hair".

Predictably most were not hair at all. Much of the rest belonged to horses, dogs, humans or brown bears. But two were different. Very different. Their DNA yielded an unequivocal 100 per cent match with a long-extinct (as in for almost 40,000 years) species of polar bear, which last knocked about the planet in the Pleistocene period.

There was brown bear DNA mixed in as well, indicating a hybrid creature. Both hairs were golden or reddish-brown.

Now quite a lot can happen in evolutionary terms over 40,000 years. All we have from these two hairs is colour and DNA profile. The animals that shed them could look - and behave - very differently from their ancestors. They could be a lot more intelligent for a start.

The strange thing about many people who say they've seen these beasts is their combination of certainty and modesty. When I was filming for the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? I interviewed an indigenous north American, the descendant of a tribe that had been massacred by a European militia led by my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great-grandfather.

Read Richard and Judy's column for the Daily Express in full here.
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