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Aug 152012
 

From Green Right Now Reports

A butterfly with mutations causing much smaller wings. (Photo: Joji Otaki)

Butterflies exposed to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 had more mishapen or abnormally small wings, antennae and legs than normal, according to a team of Japanese scientists that studied the pale grass blue Zizeeria maha, a butterfly common in Japan.

The scientists collected hundreds of butterflies for the study, beginning with samples taken from the Fukushima area in May 2011, just after the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant released large amounts of radiation into the air and water.

Initial samples show “relatively mild abnormalities” in the butterfly population, the researchers reported in their study, published Aug. 9 in Scientific Reports.

But the butterflies born to the exposed parents, which the researchers studied in a lab, showed more severe abnormalities. The problems were both more pronounced and occurred more often than would be expected in a normal population, according to the study.

The team concluded that “artificial radionuclides” from the power plant disaster caused caused major physiological and genetic damage.

“It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation,” said Joji Otaki, a scientist at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, and lead author of the study, told BBC News. “In that sense, our results were unexpected.”ge to this species.