Japanese researchers said that physiological and genetic damage was caused to the country’s butterflies, possibly by the radioactive fallout from last year’s Fukushima disaster.
The conclusion was published in a report by the Scientific Reports online journal.
A number of 121 butterflies were tracked and collected in the vicinity of the nuclear plant, beginning with two months after the nuclear disaster. The scientists discovered that 12 percent of them had unusually small wings.
The proportion rose by more than 5 percent among the second generation born, which led to the conclusion that “artificial radionuclides” from the Fukushima plant produced genetic mutations in the butterflies.
In another group of butterflies collected six months after the disaster, 28 percent were found to have “abnormal” traits. The proportion almost doubled when the butterflies had offspring of their own.
The scientists wrote in the study that “at the time of the accident, the populations of this species were overwintering as larvae and were externally exposed to artificial radiation,”. The possible cause of the contamination is that the butterflies may have eaten contaminated leaves during the spring.