Genetic analysis of hair samples purported to be that of Bigfoot creatures or Himalayan "yetis" suggests the samples are fakes, as the DNA found matches with everyday animals like wolves, bears, dogs or cows, researchers say.
More than 30 samples of hair claimed to come from the mythical, some would say nonexistent, animals were analyzed by an international team of scientists.
The project began when British and Swiss researchers put out a call to museums, other scientists and -- yes -- Bigfoot enthusiasts asking them to provide any samples promoted as coming from the fabled primate-like creatures.
An analysis team that also included researchers from the United States and France conducted tests on the samples collected over a period of 50 years by hikers, hunters and naturalists.
Genetic sequences found in the samples were compared with known DNA categorizations in research listings, which allowed them to be identified, the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, its flagship biological research journal.
The samples were identified as coming from animals -- known animals -- from around the world, including deer, horses, porcupines and sheep. The samples were tested with mitochondrial 12S RNA sequencing to identify the species origin.
But no Bigfoot and no yeti, the researchers reported, atlhough two Himalayan samples, one from Ladakh, India, the other from Bhutan, had their closest genetic affinity with a Paleolithic polar bear, Ursus maritimus.
"I thought there was about a 5 percent chance of finding a sample from a Neanderthal or (a yeti)," in the first peer-reviewed study of "anomalous primates," study leader Bryan Sykes of Oxford University said.
The study found no evidence of any such creatures, Sykes said, but he acknowledges that's not the same as proving they don't exist.
"The fact that none of these samples turned out to be (a yeti) doesn't mean the next one won't," he said. "I don't think this finishes the Bigfoot myth at all."
Call him (or it) Bigfoot, Sasquatch, yeti or the Abominable Snowman, he (or it) has yet to leave behind any evidence that has met a scientific test for authenticity, grainy photos and amateur videos notwithstanding.
The DNA tests are seen as a serious blow to those who believe in such creatures and who prefer to refer to themselves as cryptozoologists.
Science historian Brian Regal, who was not involved in the recent study, is not quite so kind, referring to such believers as "monster people."
"For decades, monster people have accused mainstream science of ignoring them, refusing to look at their evidence, and making reference to nonexistent conspiracies about the 'establishment' covering up the existence of anomalous primates," he says.
However, the DNA study shows mainstream science is willing to keep an open mind and present unbiased findings -- even if those finding don't please some, he says.
"This is not as momentous a day as some cryptozoologists were hoping," he says.