One more sign that President Obama is serious about prioritizing science: his pick for First Dog is a breed that's an important model organism in genetics research.
Some cachet also comes from having a PWD, and not just because Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy owns two. There are only about 8,000 of the dogs in the world. The breed almost died out in the early 20th century before being saved by intensive husbandry efforts in the 1940s and '50s.
This genetic bottleneck is what makes PWDs so interesting to biologists, said Gordon Lark of the University of Utah, who has studied the dogs for years.
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