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Yetis are real? Geneticist offers a plausible explanation

A British scientist runs genetic tests on purported Abominable Snowman hair and turns up some surprising results.

Yeti scalp
A alleged Yeti scalp on display at the Khumjung Monastery in Nepal.
Nuno Nogueira

The Yeti, Bigfoot's cold-climate cousin, is back in the limelight. There's no mysterious giant footprint or shaky video footage, but there is a well-regarded British geneticist at the center of it all. Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford, is featured in an upcoming documentary called "Bigfoot Files" on Channel 4 in the UK.

Ahead of the show's October 20 debut, Channel 4 released the news that Sykes conducted DNA research on hair samples purported to be from Yetis. What he claims to have found is a genetic match for an ancient polar bear.

The two hair samples came from different areas in the Himalayas, but matched up genetically with a 40,000-year-old polar bear jawbone found in Norway.

"This is an exciting and completely unexpected result that gave us all a surprise," Sykes said.

Sykes doesn't necessarily believe there are ancient polar bears running around out there, but he's open to the possibility of the existence of modern bears descended from those ancestors. The bear explanation certainly sounds more plausible than the giant hair-covered humanoid legend of the Yeti.

Sykes is involved in a larger project to conduct genetic tests on alleged Bigfoot specimens gathered from around the world. The results of his analysis of more than 30 samples will be revealed over the three-episode run of "Bigfoot Files." That means we'll just have to wait to find out if North America's Bigfoot samples actually match up to the hair on a Chewbacca costume.