Genetic analysis of hair attributed to Bigfoot found no support for that claim, but hairs linked to the Yeti were determined to belong to a mysterious bear species that may not yet be known to science.
The research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, marks a rare intersection of peer-reviewed science and cryptozoology, which is the search for, and study of, animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated.
The study solely focused on hair samples, and did not address the footprints, photographs, recorded sounds and other "evidence" purportedly linked to Bigfoot, the Yeti and similar supposedly human-like creatures.
"The whole thrust of the project and this paper is that the ‘other evidence' may convince believers, but has not convinced anyone else," lead author Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford, told Discovery News. "It is evidence of a sort, but very poor."
A total of 57 hair samples obtained from museum and individual collections underwent examination, with 36 of the samples selected for genetic analysis based on their provenance or historic interest.
The supposed Bigfoot hairs were found to belong to the following: a raccoon, sheep, American black bear, North American porcupine, wolf, coyote, dog, white-tailed deer, mule deer, horse, cow and human.
Hairs attributed to Russian Almas (aka "wild men") belonged to a brown bear, horse, cow, American black bear, brown bear and a raccoon.
Hairs attributed to an Orang Pendek (aka "short person") belonged to a Malaysian tapir.
Hairs linked to the Yeti belonged to a serow, (a goat antelope), and to the mysterious bear.
"The paper refers to two Himalayan samples attributed to yetis and which turned out to be related to an ancient polar bear," Sykes explained. "This may be the source of the legend in the Himalayas."
He continued, "Since I found two of these bears at either end of the Himalayas, it is reasonable to imagine there are others. We are planning an expedition to find one in the wild and study its behavior."
Based on the Himalayan accounts, the mysterious bear could behave more aggressively toward humans than known indigenous bear species. The hairs were golden-brown and reddish-brown in color.
Sykes and his team hesitate to put the nail in the coffin of the Bigfoot legend, but the case for this mythical, 7 to 10-foot-tall man beast has weakened yet again.
Prior research found that supposed roars and screeches from "Bigfoot" were calls of coyotes, which vocalize in complex ways, and Barred owls. The latter's hooting call, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, sounds like someone saying, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?"
In a commentary published in the same journal, Norman MacLeod of London's Natural History Museum writes, "Cryptozoologists must now either accept the findings of the Sykes team or show where they are in error. Mainstream zoologists must also now recognize that, in the case of hair samples, the claims of the cryptozoological community are now amenable to scientific testing and potential verification."
Brian Regal, a historian of science at Kean University, did not work on the study. He has lectured before on the Bigfoot, the Yeti and other myths.
"The monster enthusiast community has long used the crutch of supposed scientific indifference or even conspiracy theories about 'science' intentionally suppressing evidence of cryptids; the Sykes study ends that," Regal told Discovery News. "The responsibility is now on the monster hunters to get the material science can study. At this point, that seems unlikely to ever happen."
Sykes shares that the journal paper reveals only part of the project's findings. The rest will be in his upcoming book, "The Yeti Enigma," which will be published in September.