Nature 1, nurture 0
Idaho Star and Idaho Gem, two identical mule clones who are the siblings of a champion racing horse, respectively won first and second place — with three hundredths of a second between them — on Saturday in a preliminary round to next week's 20th annual Winnemucca Mule Race, Show & Draft Horse Challenge, according to this article on Breitbart.com.
Observing clones (as well as identical twins) helps scientists determine the relative influences of nature (genes) and nurture (environment). Born out of the Project Idaho collaboration, the 3-year-old mules have been reared and trained separately for the past two years. Because they share the same genes, any differences in physical performance should be attributable to environmental influences.
The fact that the two mules performed virtually identically therefore suggests that genes play a strong role in athletic performance — at least in mules. And because both did so well, the cloning process does not appear to have damaged or weakened them in any observable way, at least at this point.
Stay tuned for more updates after next Sunday's race, during which the clones will compete against six naturally-bred animals.