A study by Japanese scientists could serve as a warning that exposure to radiation causes substantial harm to humans as butterflies have been found to suffer from mutations after the nuclear incident last year.
Japanese researchers have discovered butterflies species collected after the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima with irregularities in their wing shape, antennae and legs.
The connection between the radiation amounts and the mutations was determined through laboratory tests done by the team.
Just several months following the nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima last year, a group Japanese experts gathered over 100 adult butterflies (Zizeeria maha).
It seemed like when the nuclear accident happened, adult butterflies have been on their larval stages. And through comparing mutations on butterflies obtained from other places in Japan, they discovered that butterfly specimens with considerably smaller wings and irregular eyes come from areas where there are high amounts of radiation present.
The lead scientist Otaki from the University of Ryukyus said, “It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation. In that sense, our results were unexpected.”
It was concluded that the increased rate of mutation resulted from ingesting contaminated food coupled with mutations of the genetic material passed from the parent to the next generation.
Professor Otaki added, “We had reported the real-time field evolution of colour patterns of this butterfly in response to global warming before, and [because] this butterfly is found in artificial environments – such as gardens and public parks – this butterfly can monitor human environments.”
Their findings agree with previous ones that showed how butterflies and other birds can be key indicators in probing the long-term effects of radioactive energy in the environment in general because of their sensitivity to changes.
The group has been conducting the study of that butterfly species for over a decade now.