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British scientist hopes for 'yeti hair' breakthrough

A British scientist said Monday he was anxiously awaiting the results of DNA tests on hair claimed to be from a yeti after initial examinations showed it had human and ape-like characteristics.



Ian Redmond, a biologist and expert in ape conservation, said the hairs found in the Indian jungle resembled samples collected by the conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, in the 1950s.

"Under the microscope, they look slightly human, slightly like an orangutang and slightly like the hairs brought back by Edmund Hillary," Redmond told AFP.

"These hairs remain an enigma. They could be a new species, but the DNA tests will hopefully tell us more."

The hairs were brought back from India this year by a BBC journalist, Alastair Lawson, who contacted Redmond and was put in touch with a team at Oxford Brookes University in south central England.

Lawson was given the hairs by yeti believer Dipu Marak, who retrieved them in dense jungle in the Meghalaya state of India after a forester allegedly spotted the creature on three consecutive days in 2003.

Marak believes the hairs come from an ape-like Indian version of the fabled yeti, or abominable snowman, called mande barung, which he believes stands about three metres tall.

Redmond and scientists from Oxford Brookes examined the hairs on Thursday under powerful microscopes, comparing them with samples taken from an Asiatic black bear, yaks, orangutangs and gorillas at Oxford's Natural History Museum and even a hair from Redmond's beard.

"The hairs are complete with the cuticle, and between 3.3  and 4.4 centimetres long and thick and wiry and curved," Redmond said.

"At one point we thought they looked like they came from a wild boar. That was quite a tense moment, but when we got a sample from the museum it turned out they were quite different."

Redmond also contacted the English laboratory that analysed the hairs brought back by Hillary in the 1950s from his Everest expedition and found they were similar in appearance.

While the microscope tests were inconclusive, the hairs are now undergoing DNA tests in separate laboratories in Oxford and Cardiff.

Redmond admitted his excitement at a potential scientific breakthrough was tinged with fear.

"My concern is that if we do find something unusual, it will be from a very small population of animals and I would want to talk to the state government and Indian government so they are not inundated with people trying to catch one for a museum.

"I want us to approach this in a 21st century and not a 19th century way."

Vocabulary

to resemble, v: to be like or similar

slightly, adj: small in amount or importance

to retrieve, v: to recover; to save; to rescue

to spot, v: to see for a short time; to recognise; to identify

consecutive, adj: following one another with no interruption

abominable, adj: very bad; terrible

cuticle, n: hard, water-resistant outermost layer of the hair

tense, adj: giving or having strong feelings of nervousness or excitement

inconclusive, adj: without a final result or outcome

tinged, adj: having a slight amount or indication

Questions

1. What is special about the hair found?

a. It has alien DNA.

b. It is multicoloured.

c. It is thicker than any ever found before.

d. It has human and ape-like characteristics.

2. Where was the 'yeti hair' found?

a. British moor

b. Indian jungle

c. Mount Everest

d. Indonesian forest

3. Who found the hair?

a. forester

b. scientist

c. journalist

d. yeti believer

4. How tall is a yeti supposed to be?

a. 3m

b. 1.3in

c. 3.3cm

d. 4.4cm

5. Why is a DNA test conducted on the hair?

a. to clone the animal

b. to increase the amount

c. Microscope tests were inconclusive.

d. The hair might be from Edmund Hilary.

Synonyms

Which of the following words or phrases replace the ones from the passage best?

1. anxiously

a. eagerly

b. stoically

c. patiently

d. indifferently

2. enigma

a. rarity

b. mystery

c. sensation

d. collectible

3. dense

a. arid

b. thick

c. ancient

d. popular

4. boar

a. hog

b. deer

c. bear

d. monkey

5. inundate

a. overrun

b. request

c. suggest

d. approach

KEY

Questions         1. d, 2. b, 3. d, 4. a, 5. c

Synonyms         1. a, 2. b, 3. b, 4. a, 5. a

By Ajarn Horst Baelz



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