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Bad news for cryptozoologists, good news for zoologists?
The scientific team received a total of 57 hair samples. Visual, microscopic and infrared fluorescence examinations eliminated two samples as "obvious non-hairs" (one was plant material, the other was glass fibre). Of the remaining screened samples, 36 were selected for genetic analysis based either on their origin or historic interest.
The samples were cleaned, the DNA was extracted and a short segment of mitochondrial 12S ribosomal DNA was amplified and sequenced. This highly-conserved DNA fragment is suitable for identifying species to genus but was not sufficient to distinguish between closely related species. Thus, this amplified fragment could identify the sample as originating from a canid, but it was not sufficient to differentiate between, say, a wolf, Canis lupus, a coyote, Canis latrans, and a domestic dog, Canis domesticus.
DNA was recovered from 30 of the specially selected hair samples. DNA analysis revealed they originated from a variety of well-known animals, including American black bear (6 samples), canids (4 samples), cows (4 samples), horses (4 samples), brown bear (2 samples), deer (1 sample), North American porcupine (1 sample), sheep (1 sample), Malaysian tapir (1 sample), serow (1 sample), human (1 sample), and even raccoons (2 samples) – remarkable since one sample identified as a raccoon was collected in Russia, which is far removed from the raccoon's natural range.
Although this study didn't reveal anything new to those of us who stay informed about cryptozoology, two samples returned strange matches. Both samples (25025 and 25191) were 100 percent matches to DNA recovered from a Pleistocene polar bear, Ursus maritimus, that lived more than 40 000 years ago on Svalbard. Weirdly, the authors report that neither sample gave a 100 percent match to modern polar bear DNA sequences, and neither specimen originated from within the polar bear's modern day range.
Professor Sykes and his colleagues elaborate (somewhat) in their paper about these two peculiar samples: "Hair sample no. 25025 came from an animal shot by an experienced hunter in Ladakh, India ca 40 years ago who reported that its behaviour was very different from a brown bear Ursus arctos with which he was very familiar."
A 100 percent match between two geographically distant hair samples to a Pleistocene polar bear is … spectacularly bizarre, in my opinion. So I contacted one of the world's foremost authorities of polar bear evolutionary history, Frank Hailer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum) in Germany. Dr Hailer compared the authors' two reported DNA sequences to previously published data from other polar and brown bears but was unable to confirm the authors' reported results.
Dr Hailer instead found that the two sequences were 100 percent identical to a polar bear that was sampled somewhere between Siberia and Alaska approximately 10 years ago. He found that the Pleistocene polar bear sequence differed at one position from the sequence data reported from the authors' Himalayan "Yeti" samples. So, unless the database sequence submitted by the authors is incorrect, their hair samples actually do carry a DNA sequence that is present in modern polar bears.
But why might polar bear DNA be found in brown bears? A few years ago, Dr Hailer and his colleagues showed that polar bears hybridised with brown bears long ago in the late Pleistocene (doi:10.1126/science.1216424), so that may be the reason for Sykes and colleagues' genetic findings. Additionally, although several bear species occur in and around the Himalayas, none have so far been identified as carrying mitochondrial DNA from polar bears.
"If true, this would raise some interesting questions about the movement of polar bears, or at least their genes, outside their current arctic distribution", writes Dr Hailer in email.
"Brown bears might transport introgressed polar bear alleles far beyond the polar bear range. Of course, this assumes that the reported geographic origin of the hair samples is correct.
originally posted by: Aliensun
a reply to: -Blackout-
Damned funny how all of those "bear" sightings are always reared up on two feet and walking like a biped.