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Tales from the Cryptozoologicon: the Yeti

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Conway, Kosemen & Naish 2012.

Hot on the heels of our highly successful and much-praised All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals [BUY IT HERE], John Conway, C. M. “Memo” Kosemen and yours truly are putting together our second collaborative volume. It’s titled The Cryptozoologicon (or, perhaps, just Cryptozoologicon, I’m not sure that we’ve decided yet) and – while obviously cryptozoological in theme – it aims to go somewhere that books about mystery animals haven’t gone before. As anyone who knows cryptozoology will know (and as anyone who listens to the TetZoo podcasts will recently have heard affirmed), writings on the subject involve a (sometimes necessary, sometimes gratuitous, sometimes hilarious) amount of speculation.

People who know John and Memo’s artwork, and my writing, will be familiar with our strengths in speculative zoology. In discussing mystery animals, we have of course both reviewed existing knowledge and proffered our own interpretations of where the evidence leads (err, all to often it leads nowhere…), but we’ve also had a lot of fun in asking the most interesting question: what if? That is, what if these cryptids were real? What would they be like, and what would their evolutionary backstory be? And to learn exactly what we’ve come up with, you’ll have to see the book itself, of course.

Until then, here’s a teaser: the Yeti section of our book. Ironically, this is actually one that doesn’t contain all that much novel speculation (for reasons discussed below). However, we hope you enjoy it and get some idea of where we’re going with this project. I also want to add that – as yet – I haven’t seen the published version of Daniel Loxton and Don Prothero’s Abominable Science; once I do, it’ll surely get cited in this section and probably in other parts of the book as well.

The Yeti

Himalayan Yeti in summer pelt, surrounded by flowering rhododendron. Image by John Conway, from the forthcoming Cryptozoologicon.

The Yeti is easily one of the most famous of mystery creatures. The Yeti of the cryptozoological literature is not the shaggy-furred, white snowbeast of Hollywood movies and popular artwork. Instead, it’s a blackish, dark brown, or red-brown animal of the sub-temperate and temperate forests and mountainsides of the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau, predominantly bipedal and 3 m or so in height (though, to be fair, white Yetis have supposedly been reported from Tibet). Eyewitness and mythological accounts believed to describe the Yeti come from such countries as Russia, China, Nepal, Tibet and India. Across this large area, a variety of different local names are believed by cryptozoologists to describe the same creature (Shackley 1983). However, there is much variation in the size, form and behaviour of the hairy ape-men described across this area by witnesses and known from lore, so one interpretation favoured by some cryptozoologists is that there are actually two kinds of yeti, or that we’re actually seeing references to a huge cast of unknown hominids that range from shaggy, orangutan-like species to surviving Dryopithecus-like species, australopithecines, Neanderthals, members of Homo erectus and others (Heuvelmans 1986, Coleman & Huyghe 1999).

Western explorers and scientists have interpreted Himalayan accounts of Yetis and such as clear descriptions of hominids. In fact, local belief is typically not so specific. As shown by this rendition from a Nepalese monastery, the Yeti of lore is an amorphous, humanoid creature that - like so many mythical animals - seems to bridge the gap between humans and the rest of nature. Image by Darren Naish.

This is the only logical interpretation if we choose to imagine all ‘wildman’ sightings and lore as encounters with real creatures.

If, however, these sightings and lore combine mistakes, hoaxes and wishful thinking with the seemingly universal human belief that there have always been wild creatures or spirits that are somehow intermediate between people and the rest of the natural world, it is wisest to interpret all or most ‘mystery hominids’ as a sort of socio-cultural phenomenon that has been mistakenly ‘de-mythified’ by cryptozoologists. In view of the continuing lack of good evidence of any sort for Yetis and other mystery hominids, the latter is our preferred option.

Zoologists, biologists and other scientists interested in the concept of the Yeti as a real animal have universally regarded it as a primate, and as a great ape (that is, as a member of Hominidae, the group that includes great apes as well as humans). Its Asian distribution, the general idea that it’s approximately similar in some aspects of appearance to orangutans, and the proposal that it might be related to (or a version of) the extinct Asian hominid Gigantopithecus have all combined to create the more specific idea that it’s a pongine: that is, a member of the same great ape group as the orangutans, Gigantopithecus and so on.

Mountainous southern Asia is home to several big, dark-furred mammals that might have contributed to the Yeti myth. Takins are muscular, stocky creatures that do not look like artiodactyls when seen briefly from the wrong angle. Photo by Darren Naish.

While this sounds like a reasonable interpretation of the data, the fact is that – like so many detailed cryptozoological hypotheses – it relies on the integrity and reliability of the supporting anecdotal evidence. Accounts whereby mountaineers and explorers catch glimpses of distant Yetis are fairly well known, as are cases where the same people find large, superficially human-like footprints in the snow. To date, however, reliable evidence that might provide support for the yeti’s existence remains unknown: there are no good photos or bits of film, the few photos of good footprints (notably the Shipton photos of 1951) almost certainly represent clever hoaxes, and claimed nests, hairs, bones and pieces of skin have all proved inconclusive or misidentified (e.g., Milinkovitch et al. 2004). Furthermore, the ‘best’ eyewitness accounts on record (e.g., Slavomir Rawicz’s detailed sighting of 1942) are highly suspect and probably fabricated (“It is most unfortunate that all this detail occurs in a book whose authenticity is, to say the least, doubtful”; Shackley 1983, p. 55).

The two Yeti supposedly watched for over an hour by Slavomir Rawicz and colleagues in 1942. The route Rawicz supposedly took through the region, and the timing reported, is full of discrepancies and the case is almost certainly a fabrication. This famous drawing, incidentally, was produced under Rawicz's guidance by "Dr W Tschernezky of Queen Mary College, London"!

In short, we regard the Yeti as an amalgamation of fleeting glimpses of known animals (including bears, takin and serows) with both the universal wildman archetype and with local Asian lore about humanesque, mountain-dwelling demons (Himalayan depictions of the Yeti do not all make it look like a primate. Some show tailed bipedal creatures with carnivore-type faces and protruding fangs (Davidson 1988)).

The fun part: what if the Yeti is real?

Most of the speculations we might make about the Yeti (if we assume it to be a real animal) have already been made in the extensive cryptozoological literature on it. Heuvelmans (1958) gave the Yeti the suggested scientific name Dinanthropoides nivalis and proposed that giant size evolved within a lineage of arboreal Asian apes, that the members of this lineage came down to the ground, and that specialisation for life in mountainous, snowy places encouraged them to become bipedal. He implied a close link between the Yeti and Gigantopithecus but did not think that these apes were close to orangutans. This scenario would require that Yeti bipedalism evolved independently from that seen in humans and other hominids, and it’s contradicted by evidence indicating that hominid bipedalism first evolved in an arboreal setting, later being improved by those lineages that took to increased terrestrial life (see the Orang-pendek section, pp. 13-15).

Eric Shipton's famous 1951 photo of a Yeti footprint. Irregular depressions at the left and right edges and heel show that this is not a real footprint: I think it's a manufactured hoax.

While some authors have implied or argued that the Yeti and Sasquatch are members of the human lineage, we prefer the view that these are bipedal pongines, convergently similar to hominins in some ways but different with respect to the details of anatomy, gait and behaviour. Indeed, Yeti sightings create the impression of a hominid not all that different from the paranthropines, the more robust of the extinct, African australopithecines. Dinanthropoides walks bipedally with slightly bent knees, its body leaning more forwards than is the case in our species, and its long arms reaching down to its knees. Its resting poses more recall those of orangutans and gorillas than humans, and it can even move quadrupedally when scrambling up hillside and among large rocks. Its feet are only superficially human-like, the enlarged, only semi-divergent hallux and broad heel representing strong terrestrial specialisation in a primate that started its terrestrial career with a typical hominid foot like that of orangutans.

Cropped version of John Conway's Yeti image.

Yetis are not reported to use tools; however, this may be due to a lack of detailed observation. We know today that orangutans, gorillas and chimps all use tools in the wild: these behaviours went unknown for decades and (in most populations) only occur rarely. A strong jaw and massive, strong teeth make Dinanthropoides an expert at breaking fruits and nuts (Tchernine 1974). As a hominid adapted for temperate, often cool, habitats, Dinanthropoides is able to deal with warm summer conditions as well as far cooler, winter ones thanks to seasonal changes in the length and thickness of its pelt, though these changes don’t happen across all Yeti populations. Our Himalayan Yetis are in their thinner, reddish summer coats (the scene depicts a time several decades in the past, when the Himalayas were more extensively covered by snow and ice than they are today).

If only more people were prepared to accept the reality of the Yeti, Sasquatch and Orang-pendek, they would realise that the supposed differences between humans and other great apes merely reflect the fact that the ‘intermediate’ taxa are extinct or scientifically unrecognised. Yet again blinkered, hidebound establishment Ivory Tower scientists, more interested in sitting behind their computers than searching the world for real animals, are holding back scientific progress!!!!!!! THEY WILL BE SHOWN WRONG IN THE END!!!

The Cryptozoologicon – by John Conway, C. M. Kosemen and Darren Naish – is due out later in 2013 and will be published by Irregular Books. Follow @IrregularBooks on twitter.

Refs – -

Coleman, L. & Huyghe, P. 1999. The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide. Avon Books, New York.

Davidson, J.-P. 1988. A portrait of the yeti as an ancient ape. BBC Wildlife 6 (10), 540-543.

Heuvelmans, B. 1958. On the Track of Unknown Animals. Hart-Davis, London.

- . 1986. Annotated checklist of apparently unknown animals with which cryptozoology is concerned. Cryptozoology 5, 1-26.

Milinkovitch, M. C., Caccone, A. & Amato, G. 2004. Molecular phylogenetic analyses indicate extensive morphological convergence between the “yeti” and primates. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31, 1-3.

Shackley, M. 1983. Wildmen: Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma. Thames and Hudson, London.

Tchernine, O. 1974. The yeti – some of the evidence. Oryx 12 (5), 553-555.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Cameron McCormick 11:00 am 08/4/2013

    and as anyone who listens to the TetZoo podcasts…

    The description of cryptozoology as the world’s longest-running speculative zoology project is just perfect!

    Coleman & Huyghe 1999

    Didn’t they also have a giant monkey running around up there too? I don’t think there were merbeings though. I really have to write up an analysis of the classification system used in that book, it’s certainly one of the strangest “art form” taxonomies ever devised.

    proposed that giant size evolved within a lineage of arboreal Asian apes, that the members of this lineage came down to the ground, and that specialisation for life in mountainous, snowy places encouraged them to become bipedal

    It’s worth mentioning that Sivapithecus was apparently a knuckle-walker, so I’d imagine other terrestrial pongines (*cough* Gigantopithecus *cough*) would be as well.

    Begun, D. & Kivell, T. (2011) Knuckle-walking in Sivapithecus? The combined effects of homology and homoplasy with possible implications for pongine dispersals. Journal of Human Evolution 60(2) 158–170.

    And I’m also struggling to see what sort of advantages bipedalism would have in a mountainous setting.

    (see the Orang-pendek section, pp. 13-15)

    Is this… from your book?

    Yet again blinkered, hidebound establishment Ivory Tower scientists, more interested in sitting behind their computers than searching the world for real animals, are holding back scientific progress!!!!!!!

    What gets me is that the people dishing out the “Ivory Tower” slur are the ones arrogantly assuming they’re super-special and incredibly skilled, and that those poor blind “real” scientists don’t even know about, like, half of the world’s megafauna!

    Link to this
  2. 2. BrianL 2:02 pm 08/4/2013

    That takin certainly reminds me of the times I saw one climbing in a zoo. I could easily imagine someone mistaking a poorly seen, climbing takin for something humanoid.

    I quite like the concept of this book. I do wonder if this might not fool some more ignorant readers into actually believing everything that will be in it and the book thus contributing to public misunderstanding, though.

    Regarding overenthusiastic cryptozoology, I’m sure a few people around here have visited the Frontiers of Zoology blog? The hypotheses of its owner are truly outrageous and include such out-there ideas as living pelagornithids in Europe and mapinguaris being based on extant, native South American pongines!

    Link to this
  3. 3. Cameron McCormick 2:33 pm 08/4/2013

    I’m sure a few people around here have visited the Frontiers of Zoology blog

    I’ve noticed it has started to clog up Google Images, although unlike The Peters Situation, the website is such an unreadable jumble that I doubt many people could slog their way through an article, let alone take it seriously. More gems include “faux-alligators” in the US and plesiosaurs showing up *everywhere* in ancient art.

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  4. 4. naishd 2:46 pm 08/4/2013

    Thanks for comments. Responses to Cameron (# 1)…

    Coleman & Huyghe (1999) do indeed have giant monkeys in Asia and elsewhere, plus the Kappa is a member of their ‘merbeing’ category. We have a few ‘merbeings’ included within the Cryptozoologicon too, by the way.

    Yes, I totally agree about Gigantopithecus being most likely quadrupedal. I don’t know if you’ve read Krantz’s argument about obligate bipedality being likely for Gigantopithecus, but it’s thoroughly unsatisfying. My speculative idea – explored in the Cryptozoologicon – has always been that if bipedal yetis and orang-pendeks and sasquatches are real, and if they’re pongines – they would potentially change (or confirm) some interesting ideas on the distribution and evolution of bipedality in hominids.

    And I’m also struggling to see what sort of advantages bipedalism would have in a mountainous setting.

    Heuvelmans came up with arm-wavy nonsense to support this idea. He also said that we could run the same thought experiment by imagining how a popular of big, mountain-dwelling carnivorans might evolve, claiming that the plantigrade bears were the inevitable result. But.. even in the 1950s (when Heuvelmans was writing), did people really think that bears evolved their unusual features in a mountainous setting? I don’t think so.

    (see the Orang-pendek section, pp. 13-15)

    Is this… from your book?

    Yes, the Orang-pendek section also discusses the possible implications this animal has for the distribution of hominid bipedality.

    Darren

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  5. 5. naishd 2:56 pm 08/4/2013

    Response to BrianL (comment # 2)…

    That takin certainly reminds me of the times I saw one climbing in a zoo. I could easily imagine someone mistaking a poorly seen, climbing takin for something humanoid.

    I was originally hoping to use an image I have of a takin (actually, just its body) moving uphill, fairly quickly. The bulges of its muscles and contours of its form are vaguely bear-like, enough so for you to think that one seen at a peculiar angle could contribute to ideas about a dark-furred, ‘other’ hillside giant. Couldn’t find the photo…

    Frontiers of Zoology is run by Dale Drinnon. Dale reads Tet Zoo and I frequently talk with him on facebook. He is – I don’t think he’ll mind me saying say – the most extreme of the literalists within cryptozoology.

    Darren

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  6. 6. Heteromeles 5:44 pm 08/4/2013

    Oh dear, I feel for you, when the literalists start sighting this book as three reputable scientists supporting the existence of their favorite cryptid against the great conspiracy. It will be really fun when they start taking your classes, because they’re sure you’re a rebel against the conspiracy of silence, and they’re hoping to get the “truth” from you…

    Heh heh heh. Great post otherwise.

    Link to this
  7. 7. David Marjanović 6:19 pm 08/4/2013

    Extant pelagornithids? I wish. :-(

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  8. 8. Mythusmage 10:06 pm 08/4/2013

    Had a little look at a recent report by an American scientist on material that, in her interpretation, showed breeding between humans and an unknown ape. It demonstrated one thing, sometimes bad science is not a measure of bad information, but of bad interpretation.

    Take into consideration that the person supplying her with samples was a Russian. It’s more likely she was looking at possible yeti hair, not bigfoot, and thus her announcement was more likely on the relationship between humans and yeti.

    In short, she got it wrong on the relationship betwen human and prospective ape, and the media got it wrong on the identity of the prospective ape.

    So what’s our problem with unknown, bipedal apes and us? Could it be a matter of the uncanny valley, and our tendency to reject any animal that looks to resemble us too closely?

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  9. 9. Heteromeles 11:51 pm 08/4/2013

    Ummm, I can’t speak for all of science-dom, but my problem is that little lack-of-credible evidence thing. That and all the linguistics around yeti (is it a bear, perhaps?). In general, I’d dearly love for there to be more bipedal apes out there. It’s just that we’re running out of things like unexplored habitat, useful niches, and good evidence. We may not see bear bones in the woods, but we certainly see a lot of bear poop when they’re around, along with rub marks, carcasses and so forth. Where is all this evidence for the cryptids?

    Here’s one example: tracks. Tom Brown Jr. (not a scientist, but a truly dedicated tracker and brother to a professor) published a whole book on The Science and Art of Tracking where he describes a good chunk of the information he can get out of a track (age of track, speed the animal was making, and so forth). I don’t think he includes how he can tell when someone is pregnant or has to pee from their tracks, but if you notice how your posture changes when your bladder is full, you’ll see how that can register on the ground, at least to someone who’s studied how his tracks varied when he had to pee (and he actually made up a sand-filled trackway in his basement to have people walk on, just to learn these kinds of things).

    Anyway, getting back to bipedal cryptid tracks, we’re missing all that information. If you’ve read that book and look at existing track casts, you can see that a bunch of them are fake. They’re flat in the soil (or in the snow, if you look at the one above), with no disturbance to show the cryptid was moving (as in snow flicked forward of the toes) and no sign of the foot flexing or putting greater weight on the ball of the foot to push off (as in deeper area in ball of the foot or toe, often with a plate-break behind it as the substrate breaks under compression and differential pressure. In the yeti snow print, the weight came in on the heel and pushed off on the heel).

    In other words, most of the track evidence is being evaluated by novices who are not recording enough data to make it useful. All of it could be faked, and we don’t have any that are even undoubtedly made by unknown animals.

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  10. 10. David Marjanović 4:27 am 08/5/2013

    Melba Ketchum’s “paper” is based on DNA samples from blueberry pies or something left out for sasquatches to eat, by someone who is convinced they come into her garden and do just that all the time. It looks like some of the DNA is human while others comes from opossums, raccoons and whatnots. No attempt whatsoever was made to prevent contamination.

    So what’s our problem with unknown, bipedal apes and us?

    Bring on the evidence.

    Could it be a matter of the uncanny valley, and our tendency to reject any animal that looks to resemble us too closely?

    What? “Our”? “Tendency”? Speak for yourself! I, for one, would have the opposite reaction: I’d be delighted and fascinated!

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  11. 11. Dartian 5:41 am 08/5/2013

    Darren:
    A strong jaw and massive, strong teeth make Dinanthropoides an expert at breaking fruits and nuts

    Actually, a strong jaw and massive teeth are more likely to indicate that the yeti is a browser, or even a grazer (cf. the robust australopithecines; recent carbon isotope analyses and tooth enamel microwear studies suggest that they were grass-eaters rather than ‘nutcrackers’). Perhaps the yeti mainly feeds on bamboo like the giant panda? ;)

    Besides, speaking in terms of general ecology, are high-altitude forests such as those in the Himalayas productive enough to even sustain such a large-bodied mammalian frugivore/granivore?

    Link to this
  12. 12. naishd 5:48 am 08/5/2013

    Mythusmage (comment # 8)… if you’re referring to the Ketchum et al. study, you do realise that it’s been absolutely discredited, right?

    Darren

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  13. 13. Chabier G. 9:22 am 08/5/2013

    I really want to read this book, even the title sounds good, it seems a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. It will be a challenge to find the phylogenetic relationships of Cadborosaurus, Mongolian Death Worm, the Mothman, and other odd cryptids, if included in the text.
    About Yeti, it’s very curious, and illustrative, how description of supposed seen creatures vary along time, as new scientific discoveries reach the pop culture. Some eyewitnesses tell about hunched half-apes, with a posture half way between human and that of a chimp. This kind of gait would be an energetic waste, if not truly painful, hard to be selected by natural selection. But, after Ardipithecus ramidus, knuckle walking as ancestral seems to be definitely discarded. Another “investigator” , thinking that Caucasian Alma exists and could be a relictic Neanderthal, spoke about a putative Alma x human hybrid as “strikingly negroid”, now we know that Neanderthal people were far from “negroid”.
    And, well, I’m always made me the same question, agreeing with Heteromeles: What can eat a big Primate in the eternal snows?, Does it gnaw lichens from exposed boulders?, it would need a lot of lichens, I think.

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  14. 14. naishd 4:44 pm 08/5/2013

    Chabier G (comment # 13): you make some interesting points! Regarding the “what does it eat” question, cryptozoologists have often argued that the Yeti is not a creature of the snows – rather, it’s meant to be a denizen of wooded hillsides and valleys that only wanders above the snowline on occasion. There’s a lot of inconsistency about this, however. As discussed above, Heuvelmans (important in ‘crystallising’ the image of the Yeti as a gorilla-like hominid) certainly said or implied that the Yeti was tied to the snowy, mountainous habitat it’s most often associated with.

    Darren

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  15. 15. Hydrarchos 5:28 pm 08/5/2013

    Ah, the Shipton footprint photo. I don’t know if I’m the only one who sees this, but every time I look at it I’m more convinced that I see a fairly normal, probably male by the length, human left foot, tilted slightly to the left of the “vertical” axis of the photo, and overlaying something else (perhaps an older, partially melted print of the same foot?) that’s a bit lower down and tilted slightly to the right. (I could easily outline it if I had a printed copy of the photo, but don’t have a printer or scanner at the moment and don’t know how to use photo editing software.)

    (If this is what the photo shows, it’s true that digit 5 appears to be missing… but I’ve seen a few people whose little toes don’t appear to always touch the ground. The foot also looks about the right size to fit the boot provided for scale…)

    Incidentally, while on cryptozoological photos, I noted that in your recent-ish Loch Ness Monster post you didn’t mention the Hugh Gray photo. Is there a reason for that? There is a blog with a very detailed, if of uncertain plausibility, analysis of that photo representing some sort of giant salamander(s): http://thelochnessgiantsalamander.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/a-beast-with-two-backs-gray-photo.html

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  16. 16. llewelly 5:34 pm 08/5/2013

    “Melba Ketchum’s “paper” is based on DNA samples from blueberry pies or something left out for sasquatches to eat, by someone who is convinced they come into her garden and do just that all the time. It looks like some of the DNA is human while others comes from opossums, raccoons and whatnots.”

    Now I’m jealous. I wish I was the product of a human-opossum-raccoon-whatnot foursome.

    ( I’m hoping “whatnot” refers to some kind of pterosaur. )

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  17. 17. Hydrarchos 5:36 pm 08/5/2013

    Cryptozoologicon sounds like it will be a great book by the way, and a welcome antidote to a lot of the overly silly cryptozoology stuff out there. I’ve seen some of “Frontiers of Zoology”, and while Drinnon seems to have as an article of faith that *every* reported cryptid sighting *ever* must be a real animal, and that every slight difference between sightings or descriptions associated with the same “entity” means that another species must be involved, at least he doesn’t appear to think cryptids have superpowers like telepathy, shapeshifting, invisibility, etc. or get into ghosts, tulpas, interdimensional manifestations, etc., like quite a few others with big online presences…

    What’s your opinion of the Centre for Fortean Zoology?

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  18. 18. Heteromeles 6:21 pm 08/5/2013

    One chuckle about “strikingly Negroid” isn’t just that Neanderthals were more likely to look like English lords (flaxen hair, long noses, ahem, sorry).

    The bigger bit of racist silliness is the assumption that “all blacks look alike.” If you can look past the skin color, which is strikingly hard even for many trained biologists, you will notice that Africans, as a group, display a striking range of facial features. For example, some in East Africa could pass for east Asian, even Korean, if it weren’t for their dark skin and curly hair. There are others who would pass as “white,” again except for their skin color and hair curliness, while others are unique to the continent. Africa does have most of human genetic diversity, and that includes morphology. The truly amazing thing is that even life scientists familiar with the data ignore all this and label them all…black. It’s an amazing cognitive bias.

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  19. 19. Cameron McCormick 6:46 pm 08/5/2013

    @ Hydrarchos #15:

    Surely that “Double Salamander” interpretation is an elaborate parody done in the style of Jon-Erik Beckjord… right?

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  20. 20. Christopher Taylor 8:28 pm 08/5/2013

    Perhaps the yeti mainly feeds on bamboo like the giant panda?

    Such a suggestion has indeed been made for Gigantopithecus. The big Chinese G. blacki is still only known from the tooth, the whole tooth, etc. and its not impossible that it had an oversized dentition more than being oversized overall.

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  21. 21. Dartian 3:55 am 08/6/2013

    Christopher: Thanks for adding that. It has indeed been suggested that Gigantopithecus fed at least partially on bamboo (although it is unlikely to have been as extreme a specialist as the giant panda is). However, the known palaeoenvironment of Gigantopithecus was highly productive (sub)tropical, relatively lowland forest (Jablonski et al., 2000) – not the kind of habitat where the yeti (or, indeed, the sasquatch) is supposed to live.

    Reference:
    Jablonski, N.G., Whitfort, M.J., Roberts-Smith, N. & Xu, Q. 2000. The influence of life history and diet on the distribution of catarrhine primates during the Pleistocene in eastern Asia. Journal of Human Evolution 39, 131–157.

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  22. 22. David Marjanović 1:58 pm 08/6/2013

    ( I’m hoping “whatnot” refers to some kind of pterosaur. )

    The wossname, not to be confused with the wossaname…

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  23. 23. Jerzy v. 3.0. 3:49 pm 08/6/2013

    Digital camera and smartphone killed off yetis, cryptids, ghosts, grey aliens and such. Now whenever somebody mentions such an enconter, his friends jump at him to show photos.

    As scientists, you really should discuss Reinhold Messner and several other reliable accounts when scientifically-minded people actually tracked down supposed yetis, orang pendeks etc. and shot the creatures. In all cases they turned to be bears.

    Somehow these eyewitness accounts are not publicized…

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  24. 24. naishd 5:34 pm 08/6/2013

    Jerzy (comment # 23): thanks for your comment, and I agree with you on the problematic/revealing lack of images for cryptids and such.

    As for Messner… look, it should be abundantly clear from the article that I (and my colleagues) are not believers in yetis, for reasons given above. Furthermore, bears are implicated in some accounts. But Messner is actually quite problematic. Yes, he says in his book that he ‘proved’ the Yeti to be a bear. But, did you know that after publishing his book, he claimed that he encountered the classic, hominid form of yeti? Plus, before writing his book, he claimed to have one or two yeti skeletons, and to have seen yetis (as in, classic ‘hominid’ yetis) on several occasions? He may be right that some (or most) Yeti sightings refer to bears, but I’m not so sure that we should hold him up as one of ‘the guys’ who solved the mystery…

    Darren

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  25. 25. Basandere 7:26 pm 08/6/2013

    Great! Will the book be out in time for christmas? I need a copy (or three).

    Link to this
  26. 26. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:00 pm 08/7/2013

    @24
    No I would like to know. It is much more interesting that repeating this all-too well known stories about yeti scalp etc.

    BTW, interpreting such stories one should keep in mind that several decades ago standards of truth were different than in internet age. A newspaper or a person could sometimes tell tall tale and still be credible, because listeners of the age were supposed to understand what is credible and what not.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:01 pm 08/7/2013

    BTW – I just found that xkcd has similar views
    http://xkcd.com/1235/

    Link to this
  28. 28. Mythusmage 11:11 pm 08/8/2013

    Naishd, #12

    Links please. Her gross misinterpretation of the evidence is one matter, but a bad interpretation disproves nothing.

    Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies (http://sasquatchinvestigations.org/) has provided hair and fecal samples to Oxford and a university in Australia, I’m waiting for word on the findings. Until I get word I will hold my piece.

    Link to this
  29. 29. David Marjanović 2:18 pm 08/9/2013

    Your peace, that is.

    For links, try Google.

    Link to this
  30. 30. Richard Freeman 11:18 am 08/10/2013

    ‘mystery hominids’ as a sort of socio-cultural phenomenon’ The same tired, shockingly arrogant bullshit I’ve heard again and again from people who have never actually gone looking for the creature or interviewed any witnesses.

    Link to this
  31. 31. naishd 12:14 pm 08/10/2013

    Ha ha, more tired and bullshittish than the belief that the entire world is populated by a pantheon of undiscovered hominids? There are thousands and thousands of stories and anecdotes, for sure, but I can’t share your faith.

    Darren

    Link to this
  32. 32. Heteromeles 2:50 pm 08/10/2013

    @Richard: What Darren said. Some of us did spend years living in bigfoot country and have seen some of the most famous foot casts, too.

    To put this in context, right now, wildlife biologists are able to track solitary wolves and wolverines in bigfoot country (the high sierras, in this case), and researchers are able to obtain DNA samples from these animals to determine which populations they originally came from. Oddly enough, despite this level of monitoring, and despite the massive kudos and fame that any wildlife researcher would get to have positive evidence of bigfoot, no good evidence is forthcoming.

    To put it bluntly, there’s no shame in finding a real bigfoot. Precisely the opposite: it would be the find of a lifetime, something that would make any biologist’s career. We have no incentive whatsoever to cover them up. If they did exist. What you mistake for arrogance is, I think, bitter disappointment at the lack of any good evidence for their existence, coupled with a wry sense of humor about both reality and the nature of human belief.

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  33. 33. Mythusmage 7:34 pm 08/10/2013

    No, Darren, I’m not going to explain myself. Whatever I say you shall deny. Proof that a person is wrong in his conclusions does not mean the evidence he tested has to be false in an of itself.

    And for #32 above; why the fear of bigfoot?

    Doubt I will return, you disappoint me Mr. Naish, that and your cowardice regarding science and scientific investigations.

    Link to this
  34. 34. naishd 7:42 pm 08/10/2013

    Mythusmage — which comment are you responding to? I don’t understand your point and can’t recall asking you to “explain yourself”.

    Darren

    Link to this
  35. 35. naishd 8:56 pm 08/10/2013

    As for my cowardice (comment # 33)… yeah, I’m such a coward for avoiding cryptozoology and other controversial subjects at all times.

    Darren

    Link to this
  36. 36. Richard Freeman 9:11 pm 08/10/2013

    Heteromeles i’m talking yeti not bigfoot. Change the tape. I’ve heard this crap so many times from people who have never been to the wilds of Asia.
    “The entire world is populated by a pantheon of undiscovered hominids?” I don’t think that at all but when asked if i trust the judgement of native people who know the local animals and have loved with them all their loves so some ‘experts’ who have never even set foot in these places i will take the former every time.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Richard Freeman 9:12 pm 08/10/2013

    have lived, a thousand pardons.

    Link to this
  38. 38. doctoratlantis 9:23 pm 08/10/2013

    I, for one, am glad that there are people like Darren and Todd Disotell who will give serious consideration to these cryptozoological topics. The whole field is fraught with antagonism from laymen who decry some kind of institutionalized conspiracy against the truth about these animals, to peers with scientific expertise who decry wasting time on myth. I’ve never met a working research scientist who didn’t want to find evidence that would overturn the existing paradigm within their field. Nobel prizes, fame and fortune – those kinds of things only come to those who are willing to question the status quo THROUGH SOLID SCIENTIFIC SKEPTICAL METHODOLOGIES. Pipe dreams add exactly jack-squatch to the collective factual knowledge of mankind. People like Darren who understand and perform proper scientific research and at the same time are open to the possibility of these creatures being real (and understanding the sense of wonder and excitement at the possibility of such a thing) are rare, and dismissing him (and others) as closed minded does him a great disservice and displays a profound ignorance of his work.

    So, please stop it.

    Link to this
  39. 39. Daniel Loxton 9:53 pm 08/10/2013

    “Doubt I will return, you disappoint me Mr. Naish, that and your cowardice regarding science and scientific investigations.”

    I have to say, taking cryptozoology seriously can be pretty unrewarding. Mainstream scholarship and even the niche skeptical literature tend strongly to dismiss cryptids as too fringe to bother with, or even as a shameful waste of time. By extension, those critics open-minded enough to talk about cryptozoology are automatically consigned to a bit of a ghetto. At the same time, cryptozoologists who complain that “scientists won’t look at the evidence” also have a habit of flaming those few, like Darren, who go out of their way to do just that. That’s a bit self-defeating for cryptozoology. It discourages those very skeptics and scientists who are most sympathetic to cryptozoology from taking the time to give their good faith assessment of cryptozoological claims.

    So if skeptics don’t want us to talk about cryptids and cryptozoologists don’t want us to talk about cryptids, why would anyone bother? Well, same reason proponents do. We’re curious and interested.

    Link to this
  40. 40. Zara Tuatara 10:25 pm 08/10/2013

    It’s not fair to equate requiring proof with being cowardly; as other commenters have pointed out, scientists who are open-minded enough to welcome conclusive proof are often stigmatised by their peers. Risking professional credibility by applying scientific methodology to cryptids requires courage and is no coward’s way out.

    Darren Naish and other scientists who would be only too happy to acknowledge the existence of yetis and other cryptids – if provided with unambiguous proof – are not the enemy here.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Heteromeles 11:22 pm 08/10/2013

    As a non non-sequitur about yetis, I should point out that something like 5% of the species cultivated in gardens today (especially British gardens) came from the eastern Himalaya, including a plethora of things like rhododendrons, asters, and peonies. This happened about a century ago, when British plant hunters roamed through the area for decades.

    Additionally, the high Himalaya was a major “battleground” of the Great Game between the Russian and English empires, as immortalized in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.

    In other words, the idea of the eastern Himalayas as “unpenetrated by white men” and “waiting to be deflowered” (that was the actual rhetoric when Younghusband invaded Tibet) is very 19th Century Imperialist. There aren’t a lot of places where a population of yetis could hang out undiscovered, and there have not been for over a century.

    Link to this
  42. 42. Mike from Ottawa 11:51 pm 08/10/2013

    @33: Cowardice? Pull the other one. It takes nerve for a guy to try to make a living in science, and do actual science, without an actual job in science or indeed any job, when he has a family (and hat tip to Darren’s family for enabling/encouraging). It takes even more to risk being thought by some fellow scientists to be a nut for taking cryptozoology seriously enough to actually look into it instead of just just dismissing all of it as crackpottery.

    Link to this
  43. 43. TimWil 1:00 am 08/11/2013

    I’ve never equated healthy skepticism with “cowardice”. Darren is assessing the evidence for the yeti in a professional and scientific manner. There is no conspiracy here.

    Link to this
  44. 44. Dartian 6:00 am 08/12/2013

    I, too, want to point out that it should be obvious to anyone who’s taken even an occasional glance at Darren’s writings on this subject that he gives cryptozoology a fair hearing. Accusing him of all people of being closed-mided and cowardly when it comes to cryptids is, to put it mildly, preposterous.

    Link to this
  45. 45. David Marjanović 11:04 am 08/12/2013

    Comment 33 is the first occurrence of explain on this whole page. Mythusmage, please help us understand what you’re talking about. ~:-|

    Link to this
  46. 46. THoltz 3:31 pm 08/13/2013

    I think the true cowards here are those who refuse to face the possibility that their pet monster might not, in fact, actually exist.

    Link to this
  47. 47. David Marjanović 6:13 am 08/14/2013

    http://vaderno.ytmnd.com/

    Link to this
  48. 48. Basandere 2:08 pm 08/14/2013

    Darren is my hero in terms of great scientific conduct and intellectual curiosity towards fringe topics. I don’t see how anybody could fail to appreciate what he does for cryptozoology.

    Link to this
  49. 49. Heteromeles 9:59 am 08/15/2013

    As for why those of European descent find wild men everywhere they go, I should point out that this has been going on for a while. Perhaps there’s a cultural component?

    Link to this
  50. 50. Chabier G. 6:50 am 08/16/2013

    Sure there is a cultural component. In the Basque Country Folklore, Basajaun (“Lord of the Forest” or “Wild Lord”) and his wife Basandere, are described as human-like creatures with a dense reddish hair covering their whole bodies, roaming the forests. Some similar legends in other, more remote countries, are believed by otherwise serious foreign people. Nobody, in modern times, will look for this Basque yeti, I think because Basque Country is a densely populated, industrialized, plenty of roads small region, where original forests have been all but replaced by farms and exotic tree plantations. But it seems that Basque sailors in the ships of Elcano didn’t want to disembark in Borneo after been told about the Orang Utan.

    Link to this
  51. 51. Heteromeles 11:45 am 08/18/2013

    Probably a waste of time, but I wonder if it’s possible to do a folkloric and/or sociological study of bigfoot and similar cryptids. For instance, did he follow the spread of Basques in the US? The various rises and falls of prankster culture? Economic downturns (where monsters show up to draw in tourist dollars when regions suffer the loss of something like the logging industry)?

    Link to this

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