Sled Dog Balto’s Genome Holds Evolutionary Surprises

Balto and his owner, Gunnar Kasson in 1925. Credit: Photo courtesy of Cleveland Public Library/Photograph Collection

Do you bear in mind the story of Balto? In 1925, the town of Nome, Alaska, was facing a diphtheria outbreak. Balto was a sled dog and a really great boy who helped provide life-saving medicine to the folks in the town. Balto’s twisty tale has been told numerous instances, such as in a 1990s animated film in which Kevin Bacon voiced the iconic dog.

But final month, scientists uncovered a new side of Balto. They sequenced his genes and found the sled dog wasn’t precisely who they anticipated. The study published in the journal Science, was aspect of a project named Zoonomia, which aims to superior fully grasp the evolution of mammals, such as our personal genome, by hunting at the genes of other animals—from narwhals to aardvarks. 

Guest host Flora Lichtman talks with Dr. Elinor Karlsson, associate professor in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology at the UMass Chan Health-related College and director of Vertebrate Genomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard Dr. Katie Moon, post-doctoral researcher who led Balto’s study and Dr. Beth Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, who coauthored the new study on Balto and a further paper which identified animals that are most probably to face extinction. 

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