TIME animals

DNA Analysis Debunks Bigfoot Myth, Points to Unknown Bear Species

Legend of Bigfoot roadside attraction outside Richardson State Park.
National Geographic/Getty Images Legend of Bigfoot roadside attraction outside Richardson State Park, Calif.

Bad news for cryptozoologists, good news for zoologists

The legend of the enormous creature variously known as a yeti, Bigfoot or Sasquatch has long been a source of mystery. But now a study of supposed Bigfoot hair samples has revealed that they actually derive from known mammals including bears, cows, dogs or horses.

A team of scientists led by Bryan Sykes, a human genetics professor at the University of Oxford, analyzed DNA from 30 samples of Bigfoot hair donated by museums and enthusiasts. Although this may come as a blow to cryptozoologists — those who search for creatures whose existence is unproven — the analysis may herald the discovery of a new species of bear.

Two hairs from India and Bhutan show an unknown species that could be a distant cousin of the polar bear or a hybrid of local species and a brown bear. “If these bears are widely distributed in the Himalayas, they may well contribute to the biological foundation of the yeti legend,” the authors said in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Although the search for the illusive Bigfoot will likely continue, scientists hope believers will at least step up their game. “The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims,” researchers said in the study. DNA analysis even revealed that a clump of hair found in Texas actually belonged to a hairy human.

TIME Polar Bear

Watch Rare Footage of Alaska From a Polar Bear’s Perspective

Biologists put cameras on four female polar bears in Alaska to observe their behavior

It’s not everyday that you can see up close what polars bears do in the wild.

Biologists with the United States Geological Survey equipped four female polar bears with collar cams in Alaska, in an attempt to learn more about how the animals’s behavior is impacted by sea ice conditions. Researchers said this is the first point-of-view video ever recorded from free-ranging polar bears.

The bears wore cameras for about 10 days, which captured everything the animals were doing, from eating habits to mating rituals.

Scientists also hope that the footage will help them understand the potential effects of climate change.


TIME animals

9 Animals That Are On the Verge of Disappearing Forever

It's almost too late

Over the weekend, the IMAX documentary Island of Lemurs: Madagascar opened in theaters. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, it is an attempt to raise awareness about efforts to conserve what researchers call the most threatened mammal on Earth. Here’s a glimpse at other threatened and endangered animals that have made headlines recently.

  • Lemurs of Madagascar

    George Pimentel—WireImage/Getty Images

    Between poaching and habitat loss due to illegal logging, some researchers now say the lemurs of Madagascar are “the most threatened mammal group on Earth,” according to a recent article in the journal Science. In addition to national conservation efforts, the international research team concluded that increased ecotourism — tourists who pay to see threatened species in their natural habitats — will benefit both the lemurs and the island’s poor rural communities. These newly minted pop culture icons can now be seen on the silver screen in Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, an IMAX documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman.

  • Giant Panda

    Giant panda
    Virginie Lefour—AFP/Getty Images

    Fewer than 1,600 giant pandas are left in the world, making it the rarest bear species. During a recent trip to China, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, feeding five approximately 18-month-old pandas by holding out sticks with apples at the end. In addition to the center’s panda cams, you can also see these giant cuddly creatures on cams run by the National Zoo and the San Diego Zoo.

  • Polar Bear

    Polar bears
    Alexandra Beier—Getty Images

    Polar bears are considered a vulnerable species because their sea ice habitat, which they use to reach seals, their prey, is melting away, forcing them to swim longer to find places to hunt — a phenomenon many scientists and conservationists attribute to climate change. Now you can see them without leaving your home, thanks to Google Street View, which filmed polar bears in Cape Churchill and Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba in conjunction with Polar Bear International.

  • Lesser Prairie Chicken

    Texas Parks and Wildlife Department / Jon McRoberts / AP

    Starting April 11, birders will flock to the annual Central Wisconsin Prairie Chicken Festival to see the feathered animal’s elaborate mating dance. On March 27, the Obama administration updated the lesser prairie chicken’s status to “threatened,” a step below “endangered,” after the species’ population hit record low numbers last year because its habitat has been diminished due to ranching, oil and gas drilling and the construction of wind turbines and power lines. Oklahoma, North Dakota and Kansas have filed a lawsuit challenging the decision, arguing that it will be detrimental to oil, gas and wind-energy businesses, dealing a blow to the states’ economies.

  • West African Lion

    West African lion
    Jonas Van de Voorde

    In January 2014, researchers found that lions in West Africa are nearly extinct, with only about 400 left altogether and about half at breeding age, according to Panthera, a non-profit that spent six years tracking them in 17 West African countries. As Philipp Henschel, co-author of the report, told the BBC, “we are talking about some of the poorest counties in the world — many governments have bigger problems than protecting lions.” Some of the last of these lions can be seen at Pendjari National Park-Biosphere Reserve in Benin.

  • Pygmy Elephant

    Pygmy elephant
    Mohd Rasfan—AFP/Getty Images

    Found on the northeastern tip of Borneo in the Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Malay peninsula, the endangered pygmy elephants are the “world’s smallest known sub-species of elephant,” according to the World Wildlife Fund. The biggest threats to their habitat are logging and the construction of palm oil plantations, which has led to confrontations between humans and elephants. This conflict was widely speculated to be the cause of 14 pygmy elephants deaths, likely caused by poisoning, that made headlines in January 2013. People who want to see them can “adopt” one through the World Wildlife Fund, which will send them photos.

  • Galápagos Penguin

    Galapagos Penguins
    Specialist Stock/Barcroft Medi/Getty Images

    The Galápagos penguin has been listed as endangered partly because its survival is threatened by El Niño events, in which the water becomes too warm and causes food shortages. Found in the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador, it is also the only species of penguin found on the equator.

  • Snow Leopard

    Snow leopard
    Scott Olson—Getty Images

    Snow leopards in the mountains of Central Asia have been recognized as an endangered species since 1972 because of poaching and the illegal trading of fur and body parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. Fun fact: their white and gray fur helps them blend into their natural surroundings, and they have extra-large paws to prevent them from sinking into the snow, according to the Snow Leopard Trust.

  • Humpback Whale

    Humpback whale
    Luis Robayo—AFP/Getty Images

    Found in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere as well as the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the humpback whales that flock to breeding grounds in Hawaii belt out a 20-minute mating song that can be heard as far as 20 miles away. While they can get tangled in fishing gear and struck by ships, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is in the middle of reviewing a petition to remove the North Pacific population of the whales from the endangered species list because their numbers have rebounded since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.

TIME animals

Baby Polar Bear Reveals His Name in the Cutest Way Possible

Drumroll, please

From his first steps to his first romp in the snow, the approximately four-month-old polar bear cub at the Toronto Zoo has virtually grown up on YouTube. Now, after a naming contest that involved about 14,000 people voting, “Humphrey” has been revealed as the winning name for this cub. An Inuit name, “Piujuq (Piu)”, was also chosen, meaning “good or nice,” according to a press release. The name “Humphrey” beat out five other names: James, Lorek, Orson, Searik, and Stirling.

WATCH: Toronto Zoo Polar Bear Takes His First Steps

TIME animals

What’s This? Oh Nothing, Just a Baby Polar Bear Taking His First Steps

Only watch this if you're ready to handle some extreme cuteness.

A polar bear cub at the Toronto Zoo, who will turn two months old this week, took his first steps today and as you can probably imagine, it was one of the cutest things that has ever happened. He’s been out of his incubator for about a month now, but will remain in a controlled environment until he’s ready to join the grown-ups. He’s making progress — along with learning to walk, he’s also teething, growing whiskers, and drinking milk six times a day, the Toronto Star reports.

It’s actually pretty amazing that he can find time in his schedule for all of that when he’s clearly busy being the cutest thing on the entire planet.

TIME closeup

Pictures of the Week: February 15 – 22

From female fighters in Syria and smugglers under Gaza to the second anniversary of Libya's uprising and a 100-year-old hospital for dolls, TIME presents the best images of the week.

From female fighters in Syria and smugglers under Gaza to the second anniversary of Libya’s uprising and a 100-year-old hospital for dolls, TIME presents the best images of the week.

TIME Man on the Wire

Animal Magic: Curious Critters

LightBox presents the fourth installment of recent news images that reveal the endless wonders of the animal kingdom.

LightBox presents the fourth installment of recent news images that reveal the endless wonders of the animal kingdom.

Whether cute and cuddly, wild or exotic, animals hold a fascination among all humans. BBC wildlife documentaries and National Geographic stories come to mind when recalling great animal imagery, but animal magic is not only confined to natural wilderness. It also exists in a life of domesticity or captivity, meaning intriguing photography of our furry and feathered friends can be found on a daily basis.

Also on LightBox: The first and second and third installments of Animal Magic.

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