Holiday reads: woolly dog vs. mammoth, man eggs, designer B-cells, bluebird bio blues

What is a woolly dog? Is it somehow related to the Woolly Mammoth?

Before we get into that and the rest of my recommended reads, note that I’m finalizing my list of contenders for this year’s The Screamers Science Hype Awards.

The Screamers Science Hype Awards.
The Screamers Science Hype Awards.

Last year The BBC won The Screamers for an article “Baby’s life ‘probably saved’ by umbilical stem cells.” Oof. There really wasn’t any good evidence of that in my view. The 2022 runner-up was on armadillos and miracles. I’m not kidding.

In 2020 former FDA Commissioner Steve Hahn won for some unfortunate statements on COVID. Dang, remember those days?

Do you have any suggestions for the worst science hype (or inaccuracy) in an article, statement, or headline for 2023?

Okay, back to woolly creatures of the past.

Woolly Dog and knitting

A recent WaPo piece by Carolyn Y. Johnson is a fun, interesting read that explains the background of these now-extinct canines. Extinct woolly dog was carefully bred for weaving, ancient DNA confirms. It is sad that these cool dogs are gone. I also recommend this piece from the Vancouver Sun about how woolly dog hair was found in a very old Salish blanket.

The new WaPo piece is based on a Science article on genetics research on these unique canines: The history of Coast Salish “woolly dogs” revealed by ancient genomics and Indigenous Knowledge. The reasons for their extinction are unknown but it is thought that the waves of colonialism that decimated Indigenous peoples likely also negatively impacted woolly dogs.

Woolly dogs were genetically quite different from other members of the dog family.

woolly dog
Two girls and a woolly dog. “A rare photograph of two Coast Salish community members with a woolly dog. PHOTO BY CHILLIWACK MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES BOOEN FONDS P. COLL 120 NO. 25”

De-extinct the woolly dog?

Okay, we can agree that Woolly Mammoths were cool animals, but it seems like if someone wants to de-extinct something that a woolly dog might make more sense.  It might not only be far more practical to bring some of these woolly dogs back but also more useful. Such a canine de-extinction effort also would not rely on other, living endangered animals the way the Woolly Mammoth project seems to put elephants at risk.

Also see my piece on why de-extincting woolly mammoths is a bad idea. Would de-extincting woolly dogs be a bad idea too?

 More recommended reads

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