The Mutant Butterflies Of Fukushima
While not quite Simpson-esque in their deformities, the mutations witnessed in butterflies near Fukushima should not be dismissed.
Researchers have discovered the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused physiological and genetic damage to the pale grass blue butterfly (Zizeeria maha).
Specimens collected from the Fukushima area in May last year showed relatively mild abnormalities; however, the offspring from the first-voltine females showed more severe abnormalities, which were present in 33.5% of the subsequent generation.
The abnormalities included colour-pattern modifications, deformed compound eyes and antenna malformation, or a forked antenna.
Adult butterflies collected in September 2011 also showed more severe abnormalities than those collected in May. 28.1% of those specimens were displaying altered traits, more than double that observed in the field-collected first-voltine adults in May
“The Z. maha population in the Fukushima area is deteriorating physiologically and genetically,” state the researchers in a paper published in Nature.
The current situation at Fukushima is still not over 17 months after the event and even when the reactors are finally dealt with, the repercussions will continue for years. The disaster provided many lessons, but as to how much we learned remains to be seen.
I’m lucky to live in a country that has fended off the nuclear energy lobby for many years – there are no nuclear power stations in this country and won’t be any for the foreseeable future. Folks in the USA aren’t so fortunate, with one in three people living within 50 miles of a nuclear power station.
In other nuclear news, a nuclear power plant in Belgium has been shut down after the nation’s atomic energy regulator discovered potential issues, including possible cracks, in the tank containing the reactor’s core. While not posing any threat according to the regulator, the power station will remain shut at least until the end of August.
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