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Scientists analyze mutton hide, study of the wool of the only known woolly dog ​​reveals new secrets discovered after fur

Scientists have analyzed the wool of ‘mutton’, the world’s only known woolly dog. The Salish Woolly Dog was a small, mostly white, long-haired dog with a thick fur coat, a fox-like face and prickly ears, which was domesticated by the Coast Salish throughout southern Vancouver Island, the Strait of Georgia, and Washington State. The hair of the creature that was used to weave blankets and clothes. The Salish Woolly Dog became extinct around 1900. A study conducted by researchers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has revealed secrets about the genetics and ancestry of woolly dogs.

Published in the journal on December 14 ScienceThe study sheds light on the genes responsible for the highly sought-after woolly fur obtained from woolly dogs. As part of the study, anthropologist Logan Kistler and evolutionary molecular biologist Audrey Lynn detected genetic clues in the mutton rind.

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Why Coast Salish woolly dogs were considered prized possessions

For thousands of years, the Coast Salish tribal nation in Washington and British Columbia bred and raised woolly dogs, prized for their thick undercoat. People sheared dogs like sheep and often kept them in pens or on islands to care for their health and vitality. The wool of the dogs was used to weave blankets and prepare objects for ceremonial and spiritual purposes. Woolly dogs not only had spiritual significance and were treated as beloved family members, but were symbols for many Coast Salish communities, leading to them being seen on woven baskets and other art forms.

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Who was Mutton?

The once thriving wool-weaving tradition was in decline by the mid-19th century. Naturalist George Gibbs cared for a woolly dog ​​named Mutton in the late 1850s, and when Mutton died in 1859, he bequeathed the dog’s skin to the nascent Smithsonian Institution. Since then, Ooni has been residing in the institution. But not many people knew about the existence of woolly dog ​​wool until it was rediscovered in the early 2000s.

According to a statement released by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Lin first learned about Mutton in 2021, and said that when she saw Mutton in person for the first time, she was overwhelmed with excitement, and it She was also surprised to learn that virtually no work had been done on the genetics of woolly dogs, which had disappeared by the beginning of the 20th century. Lynn and Kistler traveled together to Coast Salish communities to learn more about woolly dogs.

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How was the study conducted?

His team began to analyze the genetic code of the mutton, and sequenced the woolly dog’s genome, comparing it to the genomes of ancient and modern dog breeds, to understand why the woolly dog ​​was different. To determine the diet of mutton, he identified isotopes in the meat. Natural history illustrator Karen Carr created a lifelike reconstruction of what Mutton would have looked like in the 1850s for the team. The artist’s concept is the first thorough reconstruction of the Coast Salish woolly dog ​​in nearly three decades.

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When did woolly dogs separate from other breeds?

Based on genetic data, the team estimated that woolly dogs diverged from other breeds up to 5,000 years ago. This date matches archaeological remains of woolly dogs from Coast Salish areas.

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What was the genome of mutton similar to?

The study found that the mutton was genetically similar to pre-colonial dogs from Newfoundland and British Columbia, and about 85 percent of the mutton’s lineage could be linked to pre-colonial dogs. Researchers were surprised by the discovery because the muton survived decades after European dog breeds were introduced to North America. This indicates the possibility that Coast Salish communities continued to maintain the unique genetic makeup of woolly dogs until well before the breed’s extinction.

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Where did woolly dogs get their fluffy wool?

To determine what gave woolly dogs their fluffy wool and wool fibers that can be spun together into yarn, researchers analyzed more than 11,000 different genes in the mutton’s genome. 28 genes associated with hair growth and follicle regeneration were identified. One of these was a gene that resulted in a woolly hair phenotype in humans, and another gene associated with curly hair in other dogs. The woolly mammoth had similar genes in its genome.

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Possible reasons for the decline in the number of woolly dogs

But researchers could not find much information about why dogs declined through analysis of the genetics of mutons. While scholars speculate that the arrival of machine-made blankets in Coast Salish areas in the early 19th century made woolly dogs expendable, locals told researchers that it was impossible to make blankets from woolly dog ​​fur , which is a central part of the Coast Salish. Society, will be replaced.

After European settlers arrived in the areas, factors such as disease, colonial policies of cultural genocide, displacement, and forced assimilation doomed the future of the Woolly Dogs. It is likely that Coast Salish communities were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their woolly dogs.

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In the statement, Lin said that it took thousands of years of very careful maintenance to be lost within a few generations.

Nevertheless, Coast Salish society still cherishes the memory of the woolly dogs.

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