Many people in Japan are still recovering from the tragic earthquake and tsunami that killed so many and left a nuclear power plant in Fukushima leaking radiation into the environment. It’s hard to look past the human toll that this tragedy took on families in affected areas of Japan, but the leaking radiation from the nuclear power plant has profound implications for the environment. Scientists have announced that they have found an increase in mutations among butterflies collected around Fukushima.
According to the scientists, there has been an increase in leg, antennae, and wing shape mutations among butterflies collected after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The scientists also report that they have linked the mutations in the butterflies to radioactive material from the nuclear disaster. In March of 2011, two months after the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, Japanese researchers collected 144 adult pale grass blue butterflies from 10 locations around Japan including Fukushima.
According to the researchers when the nuclear disaster occurred these adult butterflies would’ve been larvae. Comparing mutations in the same species of butterflies collected around Japan the team was able to determine that increased radiation was present in environments where the butterflies had smaller wings and irregularly developed eyes. The researchers also found after breeding the genetically mutated butterflies, a whole host of abnormalities not seen in the previous generation were produced in their offspring.
The mutation in the offspring of butterflies collected around Fukushima included malformed antennae, which are critical to exploring the environment for butterflies and to seek out mates. Six months after the original butterfly collection, the researchers collected more adult butterflies from the same 10 sites and found that those around Fukushima had a mutation rate more than double of those found in Fukushima previously. The high mutation rate was linked to eating contaminated food and mutations passed down from parents.