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This week in SciShow News, hard science meets cryptozoology, as biologists reveal the results of their investigation into samples suspected to have come from such beasties as Sasquatch and yeti. The findings are pretty much what you'd expect -- but not entirely.

Find more of Dr. Lindsey Doe @:
https://www.youtube.com/user/sexplanations
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Sources:
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2014.0161
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspb.2014.0843
(Intro plays)

Welcome to SciShow News. I'm Dr. Lindsey Doe, host of Sexplanations, filling in for Hank, who's off this week.

Now, I'm going to launch with some names that you'll no doubt recognize and you'll probably recognize them as being synonymous with the very opposite of science, but trust me, I'm going somewhere with this.

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti. Cultures all over the world have names for elusive, supposedly ape-like animals. In Bhutan, they're known as... And in Mongolia and Russia, there are stories of the... But scientists, they don't really have a name for these creatures, because, well, there's no reason to think they're real.

This week, however, an international team of zoologists paid serious attention to the phenomenon of what they call anomalous primates, and opened a big ol' can of molecular genetics on it in order to separate the legends from reality.

In May 2012, biologists at Oxford University and zoological museums in France and Germany issued a public call for any known physical evidence of anomalous primates. They ended up receiving 57 hair and fur samples from private collections and museums around the world.

The team screened the samples to filter out any contaminants, and then extracted fragments from them to isolate their mitochondrial DNA. That's the ancestral DNA found in cell's mitochondria that's totally different from the DNA that animals inherit directly from their parents.

Researchers then compared the DNA from the mysterious samples to the data in a GenBank, a database of all publicly available genetic sequences taken from more than 100,000 organisms.

On Wednesday, the team published their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and the results are pretty much what you'd expect, but not entirely. Almost all of the samples that were tested turned out to be from ordinary mammals, most of which are common in the regions where the samples were taken.

For example, of the 18 samples tested from the western United States, which had been presented as possible evidence of Big Foot, most turned out to be the hair from black bear, dogs, or cows. A couple were from raccoons and porcupines. Specimens from Russia, meanwhile, home of the legendary Almasty, were actually hairs from cows and horses with a couple of bears in the mix.

But the most surprising finds came from Yeti country, the samples taken from collections in India, Bhutan, and Nepal. The sample from Nepal, the country most associated with Yeti lore, turned out to be from a serow, a goat-like animal that's native to mountain forests throughout Asia.

But the other two samples from Bhutan and India both ended up matching only one organism in the database: A 40,000 year old fossil of a polar bear found Norway. And neither specimen matched the genetic markers found in modern polar bears!

One of these samples had been collected by a hunter in northern India 40 years ago, who reported find a strange, bear-like animal in the mountains that he'd never seen before. The other came from an unidentified den or nest found in the bamboo forests of Bhutan.

Now, the fragment of DNA that matched the fossil was very small, so the scientists warn us in so many words to put away our tin foil hats and instead put our thinking caps on.

In their paper, they postulate that the two samples could be evidence of a species of bear that until now has been unknown to science, possibly a hybrid between a brown bear and a polar bear, or even lineage that dates back to before polar bears and brown bears diverged into separate species.

Now, some of you are probably wondering: Big Foot? Yeti? Why did these scientists even bother? In a commentary in the same journal, Norman MacLeod, the curator of paleontology at London's Natural History Museum says this study of anomalous primates may seem frivolous at first, but it finally brings scientific rigor to the disputed field of cryptozoology, which has been dominated by sudo-science and conspiracy theory. Now, at least, cryptozoologists can't say that the scientific establishment hasn't taken their claims seriously, and maybe, MacLeod says, the two communities can start speaking the same language, what he calls the "language of hard scientific data and hypothesis testing."

And who knows? The research might even result in the discovery of a new species of weird bear. It's not exactly Sasquatch, but it's something!

Thanks for watching SciShow News. If you want to keep learning more about the world with us, just go to subbable.com and become a contributing member. And don't forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe. Thank you for letting me be your substitute on SciShow. If you'd like to check out my channel, it's youtube.com/sexplanations.