LONDON (The Blaze/AP) -- Calling all collectors of supposed bigfoot hair samples: European researchers want to analyze its DNA to help crack the mystery of whether Bigfoot exists.
In a project announced this week, Oxford University and Lausanne Museum of Zoology scientists appealed to museums, scientists and yeti aficionados to share samples -- cryptozoological material -- thought to be from the mythical ape-like creature.
Researchers plan to focus on hair samples to determine the species it originated from. New genetic tests will be done on just a few strands, and completed within weeks. Even if the sample is judged to come from an unknown species, scientists should be able to tell how closely it is related to other species, including apes or humans.
Bryan Sykes of Oxford University said the group had already received offers of samples to test, including blood, hair, and items supposedly chewed by Bigfoot. Sykes and colleagues plan to sift through the samples for the next few months before deciding which specimens to test. They will then publish their results in a peer-reviewed journal.
Sykes said evidence already exists of interbreeding between homo sapiens and Neanderthals, which could have played a role in the yeti's origins.
He said he has always been intrigued by stories of yeti sightings, but he would rely on science rather than such tales to prove if the stories are credible. "It's not really possible to fabricate DNA evidence," he said.
"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," Sykes said in a statement. "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."
He acknowledged that the chances of proving the existence of a new yeti species are low, but said that the study was still worthwhile. "If we don't look, we'll never find out," he said.