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Intro: "According to a study published by Scientific Reports, researchers started looking at butterflies near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant two months after the March 2011 tsunami damaged the reactors, causing a potential radiation leak. Of the initial 100 butterflies studied, 12% had mutations. But as the butterflies mated, the rate of mutation in successive generations increased to 34%, showing that the mutating genes were easily passed along to offspring."

The Fukushima nuclear accident's radioactive fallout has caused abnormalities in the pale grass blue butterfly. (illustration: Scientific Reports)
The Fukushima nuclear accident's radioactive fallout has caused abnormalities in the pale grass blue butterfly. (illustration: Scientific Reports)


Mutant Butterflies Found Near Fukushima

By Tim Newcomb, TIME Magazine

15 August 12

 

Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster might have increased the rate of mutation in one species susceptible to environmental changes.

o matter how you cut it, finding mutant butterflies is hard to spin as a positive result. But the knowledge gained from the pale grass blue butterfly, a.k.a. Zizeeria maha, could potentially help down the road as the country recovers from one of the world’s worst nuclear power disasters.

(MORE: Is Post-Fukushima Japan Safe for Tourists?)

According to a study published by Scientific Reports, researchers started looking at butterflies near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant two months after the March 2011 tsunami damaged the reactors, causing a potential radiation leak. Of the initial 100 butterflies studied, 12% had mutations. But as the butterflies mated, the rate of mutation in successive generations increased to 34%, showing that the mutating genes were easily passed along to offspring.

(PHOTOS: New Photos from Inside Fukushima)

The problems were widespread, with abnormalities found including broken or wrinkled wings, changes in wing size, problems with legs, antennae, abdomen and eyes and even shifts in color pattern. Intrigued by the initial findings, researchers took a look at 200 butterflies in September and found that the mutation rate was increasing in the latest generation of butterflies — the ones that were likely larvae around the time of the disaster — with more than half of new butterflies showing some kind of mutation.

The news is obviously troublesome for the entire region, raising concerns about the harmful long-term effects of the Fukushima disaster — the largest since Chernobyl in 1986 — but it also underscores the important role of early-warning signs stemming from radiation leaks.

(MORE: Do I Dare Eat a Peach? After Fukushima, Japanese Farmers Struggle with Food Safety)

But butterflies can be particularly susceptible to radiation; not all animals will suffer a similar fate, which is exactly why researchers want more tests done on different species. “Sensitivity [to irradiation] varies between species, so research should be conducted on other animals,” Joji Otaki, an associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, told the Japan Times.

Fortunately for humans, they generally fare better than butterflies when it comes to handling radiation. Hopefully much better.

PHOTOS: Japan One Year Later


 

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+2 # phantomww 2012-08-15 10:56
So we have finally created Mothra!!! I loved that movie about the giant moth?butterfly and the 2 little japanese girls.
 
 
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-08-15 17:20
This is the first comment you ever wrote that I actually agreed with. If you hadn't made a Mothra reference I would have.

Unfortunately, we're only joking because it's the last refuge of the powerless. The real matter at hand is a bit more serious.
 
 
0 # phantomww 2012-08-15 19:13
I'm waiting for them to find a mutant lizard. Can you say Godzilla. I love this stuff. Watch out Tokyo.
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2012-08-18 17:47
Like I said, it's a bit more serious than that. You may not understand that, but your kids kids or grandkids will.
 
 
+2 # ericlipps 2012-08-15 16:01
Most likely. the mutation rate isn't increasing; rather, since most mutations are recessive, more and more are showing up in offspring as carriers mate. Added onto he rate of new mutation. this would create the appearance of an increasing rate of mutation, perhaps even if the actual muation rate were declining.
 

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