As the Toller Burns

Coming soon to the PBS² (Polemics Bashing Shoddy Science) channel, the second season of October 2011’s smash hit As the Toller Burns.

Last season on the mostly unscripted reality show staring PhDs documenting the genetic health of inbred dogs using Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers as the exemplar breed we met the two opposing camps: Team Apologist lead by Claire Wade and Team Reason lead by Katariina Mäki.

This Toller probably isn't the product of a father x daughter mating, but the gene pool is so small, it has the same level of inbreeding.

This Toller probably isn’t the product of a father x daughter mating, but the gene pool is so small, it has the same level of inbreeding.

In the first episode, For Whom the Dog Tolls, we learned that Tollers are one of the most inbred of dog breeds but that two recent published papers on them come to diametrically opposed conclusions regarding that fact.

Katariina Mäki looked at 13 generations of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers from all over the globe, over 28,000 dogs going back to the documented founding of the breed, and found fewer than 10 effective founders and an average inbreeding coefficient of over 25%.

Claire Wade looked at 4 generations of Tollers just in Australia, totaling fewer than 600 dogs, artificially created “founders” by truncating pedigrees of all imported dogs (hint: all Tollers in Australia are from imported stock), and declared 84 founders with 26 founder equivalents.  Her COI calculation was less than 3%.

A pedigree chart of Claire Wade's Toller "Burn" showing pedigree collapse

A pedigree chart of Claire Wade’s Toller “Burn” showing pedigree collapse

In the second episode, Pedigree Collapse, we learned why Claire Wade only wanted to look at 4 generations of Tollers instead of all available data.  Her own Toller, named Burn, looks like a decently outbred dog if you’re only looking at the first three or four generations, but a complete analysis of his pedigree shows swift and profound pedigree collapse.  There aren’t many forks in his family tree.

Claire Wade's NSDTR "Burn" has a COI of nearly 30%.

Claire Wade’s NSDTR “Burn” has a COI of nearly 30%. If you’re a fool  (or trying to fool someone else) you might pretend it’s lower than that by looking at only a few generations.

In the third episode, COI: How Many Generations are Enough?, we learned how Claire Wade’s data was manipulated to show an inbreeding situation very different from the one documented by Mäki (whose numerical calculations are supported by empirical genetic testing).  In brief, she only looked at the tip of the inbreeding iceberg and declared that it wasn’t very big while ignoring the rather substantial inbreeding indicated by looking at the rest of the data.

Biologist Claire Wade and her Toller "Burn" during an NSDTRC-USA Field Test.

Biologist Claire Wade and her Toller “Burn” during an NSDTRC-USA Field Test.

In the stirring season finale, Academic Fraud in Toller Research, we laid out the case for the retraction of Wade’s 2011 paper by enumerating many of its serious flaws in logic and method.  Suspiciously truncated data, spurious application of genetic principles, undisclosed conflicts of interest, deceptive language, counterproductive methodology, and suspect comparisons to other species were serious and repeated flaws which strongly suggest Academic Fraud and the intent to deceive.

Shoddy science makes this Toller puppy sad.

Shoddy science makes this Toller puppy sad.

This season on As the Toller Burns, we’ll meet two Professors from the University of Cambridge, Sir Patrick Bateson and David Sargan who join Team Reason, cast further doubt on to Team Apologist’s “research” and extract key concessions from Claire Wade and Frank Nicholas.

Stay tuned to your vocal PBS² station.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.