The research, published in the Journal of Heredity, provides a baseline to study the effects of ionizing radiation exposure on the environment.
Researchers hypothesised that low-dose radiation would cause genetic damage and increased mutation rates. One team examined Fukushima’s impact on the pale grass blue butterfly finding size reduction, slowed growth and high mortality in lab-bred insects with parents collected from contaminated sites.
‘Non-contaminated larvae fed leaves from contaminated host plants collected near the reactor showed high rates of abnormality and mortality,’ said Dr Joji Otaki of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan. The studies compared species found at the site of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown with species from Fukushima.
Fukushima also saw declines in bird and cicada populations attributable to radiation released during the accident. Aberrant feathers were found on local barn swallow populations. The scientists involved in the project have urged basic scientific research and monitoring for wildlife populations.