News Column

Mutant Butterflies Found in Fukushima Nuclear Area

Aug. 14, 2012

After a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011, officials closed Fukushima Dai-ichi (dai-ichi means "number one"), the nuclear power plant located in Okuma and Futaba.

A month later Japanese authorities declared the area an evacuation zone and a no-go area because of the massive release of radioactive materials to the environment.

Last week scientists published new findings via that show the radioactive materials have affected the pale grass blue butterfly.

Scientists first began collecting adult butterflies in May 2011, then again in September 2011.

"Adult butterflies collected in September 2011 showed more severe abnormalities than those collected in May. Similar abnormalities were experimentally reproduced in individuals from a non-contaminated area by external and internal low-dose exposures. We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species."

Some of the findings include wing size, dented eyes, deformed left eye, color-patter changes and deformed wing shape.

"We detected morphological malformations in various parts including legs, antennae, palpi, eyes, abdomen, and wings," reads the journal. "Coulour-pattern changes were relatively frequent. In one individual, the third spot array was located closer to the second array. In another individual, spots were deleted or added, which was occasionally found only in a right or left wing. In another individual, spots were fused together."

The results of the study will assist in finding what other impacts the Fukushima disaster will have on other animals and surrounding ecosystem.

According to CNN, one of the researchers, Joji Otaki, an associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, told Japanese reporters that the study should also lead to more research on what else may be affected by the radiation, but that there shouldn't be "large-scale concern" about this kind of mutation in humans.

"Humans are totally different from butterflies and they should be far more resistant" to radiation, he told the newspaper.

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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