While most of us probably suspect that the yeti is a mythical beast, the finest minds in the world beg to differ. This is why Oxford University has just announced that it is going on a yeti hunt, to establish once and for all whether the creature has ever existed.
In collaboration with the Lausanne Museum of Zoology, Oxford University is inviting people and organisations with supposed evidence of the existence of the yeti to submit it for testing. Anyone can submit an entry, and in the first instance all that's required is some data about the sample: what it is, when and where it was collected, that kind of thing.
Once they've received a respectable number of samples, they'll choose the most convincing ones and ask the owners to send them in for scrutiny — including thorough genetic analysis. With any luck, the study should bring together the strongest evidence around the world to settle the issue once and for all. Bryan Sykes, from Oxford University, explained to Wired:
"Theories as to their species identification vary from surviving collateral hominid species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, to large primates like Gigantopithecus widely thought to be extinct, to as yet unstudied primate species or local subspecies of black and brown bears.
"Mainstream science remains unconvinced by these reports both through lack of testable evidence and the scope for fraudulent claims. However, recent advances in the techniques of genetic analysis of organic remains provide a mechanism for genus and species identification that is unbiased, unambiguous and impervious to falsification. It is possible that a scientific examination of these neglected specimens could tell us more about how Neanderthals and other early hominids interacted and spread around the world."
The myth — or true story, let's be open-minded — is known across countries and cultures throughout the world, so the university can expect a wide range of samples to be put forward. If you're on the hunt yourself, the researchers point out that hair shafts are particularly desirable. [University of Oxford via Wired]