Bigfoot and Yeti DNA Study Gets Serious

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THE GIST

- Scientists have requested that cryptozoologists send them material supposedly from cryptic species.

- They plan to conduct genetic analysis of the material.

- The call is a challenge to those who claim that science simply rejects such claims.

A new university-backed project aims to investigate cryptic species such as the yeti whose existence is unproven, through genetic testing.

Researchers from Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology are asking anyone with a collection of cryptozoological material to submit descriptions of it. The researchers will then ask for hair and other samples for genetic identification.

"I'm challenging and inviting the cryptozoologists to come up with the evidence instead of complaining that science is rejecting what they have to say," said geneticist Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford.

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While Sykes doesn't expect to find solid evidence of a yeti or Bigfoot monster, he says he is keeping an open mind and hopes to identify perhaps 20 of the suspect samples. Along the way, he'd be happy if he found some unknown species. (Rumor or Reality: The Creatures of Cryptozoology)

"It would be wonderful if one or more turned out to be species we don't know about, maybe primates, maybe even collateral hominids," Sykes told LiveScience. Such hominids would include Neanderthals or Denosivans, a mysterious hominin species that lived in Siberia 40,000 years ago.

"That would be the optimal outcome," Sykes said.

The project is called the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project. It is being led by Sykes and Michel Sartori of the zoology museum.

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Origin of a Legend

The story of a big hairy monster of the Himalayas stomped into popular culture in 1951, when British mountaineer Eric Shipton returned from a Mount Everest expedition with photographs of giant footprints in the snow.

The cryptic creature goes by many names in many places: yeti or migoi in the Himalayas, Bigfoot or sasquatch in the United States and Canada, respectively; almasty in the Caucasus Mountains; orag pendek in Sumatra. (Infographic: Tracking Belief in Bigfoot)