"Although none of the Bigfoot hairs were from an anomalous primate, this does not prove that Bigfoot does not exist,” Sykes said. “Absence of proof is not proof of absence."
There is further puzzlement about the bears identified in the latest paper. The researchers' analysis of mitochondrial DNA — genetic information passed down through the female line — showed that while Tibetan brown bears share a close common ancestry with North American and Eurasian bears, Himalayan brown bears belong to a distinct evolutionary lineage.
"Our data suggests that Himalayan brown bears may be representative of the most ancient lineage of brown bears, having shared a common ancestor with all other living brown bears more than 600,000 years ago," co-author Stephanie Gill of the University at Buffalo explained to Seeker.
"They appear to have migrated into the area and been isolated ever since," Gill added. "Thus, Himalayan brown bears living today may provide a sort of window into what the ancestor of all brown bears was like."
Lindqvist admitted that she and her team are missing the male side of the story. “It is possible that these bear populations are more connected than we realize,” she said, “but that it is only the male bears that move across the mountains."
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Another possibility is that around 650,000 years ago, during a period of glaciation, Himalayan brown bears became separated from other bears. That population could then have undergone a prolonged period of isolation and evolved on an independent path.
In the future, the researchers hope to sequence the nuclear genomes of Himalayan and Tibetan brown bears, permitting a more complete look at these species' history.
In the meantime, the myths associated with Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, and Bigfoot continue.
"Once a myth becomes part of the culture, there seems to be strong selection to keep it there," Gill said. "And all it takes is another near-sighting to reinforce the myth in the minds of those who have already chosen to believe it: a self-fulfilling prophecy, in essence."
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