May 30, 2023 8:17 am

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

Do you don’t forget the story of Balto? In 1925, the town of Nome, Alaska, was facing a diphtheria outbreak. Balto was a sled dog and a pretty excellent boy who helped provide life-saving medicine to the persons in the town. Balto’s twisty tale has been told several occasions, like 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 specifically who they anticipated. The study published in the journal Science, was aspect of a project named Zoonomia, which aims to superior recognize the evolution of mammals, like 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 different paper which identified animals that are most most likely to face extinction. 

Additional Reading

Donate To Science Friday

Invest in top quality science journalism by creating a donation to Science Friday.